What an Injury Trial is Really Like – Part 2
When we last left off the jury had seen the video and was on its way to the court room to see if they were going to be on the jury. For those of you who missed our first in this series, I offer a little review.
I’ll begin by resetting the stage: You are in a car wreck with a drunk driver. You are in a truck accident with a semi tractor trailer. You are riding a motorcycle and are in a highway accident. You are in a construction accident. You are injured. The injury could be a brain injury. It could be a spinal cord injury or a back injury. You might be a paraplegic or a quadriplegic. You might have a burn injury. What ever the injury, you have medical bills and you have lost wages. You might not be able to return to work. You are worried how you are going to be able to feed and cloth your kids, and be able to pay your medical bills.
The insurance company for the person who was negligent, and caused you injury refuses to compensate you fairly for the injuries, medical bills, lost wages and the loss of the ability to enjoy your life. Your claim must be resolved by a civil jury trial. Remember, it is a civil jury trial, not criminal. This means no one is going to jail. In fact the person who is hurt is not claiming, in most trials, that the person who caused their injuries did it on purpose. What the injured person is saying is exactly what you mother told you when you broke some window, or spilled your milk: The harm you caused occurred because you were not careful, it is your fault and your responsibility to make up for the harm you caused. This is true whether the person was in a road accident or an industrial accident.
The group of potential jurors is seated in the court room. At this point in the proceedings the group is called the venire. They are asked to stand by the judge and asked to take an oath to honestly answer the questions put to them by the judge and the attorneys for the people involved in the law suit. The judge will then explain to the potential jurors that this part of the jury trial process is called voir dire. This is just a Latin term meaning to speak the truth. The judge tells the jurors the basic outline of how the trial will be run. The judge will then ask the jurors a series of questions to determine there ability to serve as a juror. Generally the judge covers the issues dealt with under the statutory reasons why a person cannot be a juror. We discussed this last time. If the judge allows the persons to remain as potential jurors, 12 to 15 people will be placed in the jury box seats and the attorneys for the people in the lawsuit will be able to ask them questions. The idea is to try and find six jurors (yes six, it used to be twelve but that changed more than 30 years ago) who can listen to the evidence and be fair to both parties and return a fair and just verdict.
A good accident lawyer or injury attorney knows that a juror who cannot be fair has no place on the jury. After the questioning, the lawyers select the persons they think can be most fair. This part of the jury trial can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours depending on the judge and the complexity of the case. Once the jury is selected, the next step in the process starts. This is called the opening statement. We will up there next time.