If your car accident case has to go to trial, you may feel unprepared. Many people aren’t aware that not all car accident cases can be settled out of court. It is true that the majority of car accident insurance claims are resolved without a lawsuit. Often, even when a lawsuit is filed, the issues are then resolved by settlement agreement before a trial has to take place. However, some car accidents do warrant a trial, for instance if both parties cannot agree on who caused the accident, or on how much a party should be compensated for an injury. Read on for some common concepts and procedures present in car accident trial.
Typically in a car accident case, a jury makes important decisions in the case, rather than a judge. A jury usually consists of twelve or fewer people. The first part of the trial is called “voir dire,” which is the phase during which the jury is chosen. During this phase, the judge and the lawyers interview the potential jurors to ensure that they don’t have any biases or prejudices that would prevent them from being fair and impartial.
Next, each party makes an opening statement. The purpose of the opening statement is to allow each party’s attorney an opportunity to present their side of the case, including what they will prove and refute. Typically the plaintiff’s attorney goes first because the plaintiff has to prove all of the allegations in the case. Opening statements usually last around twenty. After the opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorney presents the plaintiff’s case.
The plaintiff’s side goes first, because again the plaintiff has the “burden of proof.” The plaintiff’s attorney presents their evidence by calling on witnesses. In a car accident case, the attorney might call the plaintiff to testify about their observations before, during, and after the crash to establish how the accident occurred. Other witnesses may be called as well.
After the plaintiff’s attorney has presented all of the witnesses they need to make the plaintiff’s case, the plaintiff “rests” the case. After the attorney rests the case, it is the defendant’s turn to present evidence. The defendant’s attorney follows the same procedure for presenting evidence as the plaintiff’s attorney. Again, the attorney calls witnesses who verify the defendant’s claims and defenses. The attorney might call witnesses whose account of the car accident contradicts that of the plaintiff’s witnesses.
Finally, each attorney gives a closing argument. In the closing arguments, each attorney talks about the evidence that was presented and attempts to persuade the jury to draw certain conclusions from that evidence. Then, the jury goes to a room separate from the courtroom to deliberate on the evidence until they reach a verdict. The deliberations are confidential, and only the jury is present. In a car accident case, the deliberations typically last only a few hours. The jury informs the judge when they have reached a verdict, and everyone is brought back into the courtroom where the verdict is read out.