The trial process for personal injury lawsuits varies depending on the complexity of the case and how eager the prosecution is to fight for the maximum settlement. Some cases never make it to the courtroom because both parties agree on a settlement during the discovery phase; however, other cases go in front of a judge and jury because the plaintiff or defendant refuses to compromise.
What Happens Pretrial?
In the pretrial phase of a personal injury case, the plaintiff will kick off the lawsuit by sending a demand letter to the defendant. To send a demand letter, the plaintiff must have all the details of the case in order. The demand letter outlines the case, including evidence gathered proving negligence against the defendant, damages the plaintiff has suffered, and compensation the plaintiff hopes to recover.
The defendant will have a set amount of time to respond to the demand letter or deny the demand. Usually, the demand letter will lead to negotiations between the plaintiff and the defendant. Negotiations happen during the pretrial discovery phase. If a negotiation can’t settle the case, then a trial is the next step.
When a trial begins, both parties will have the chance to give opening statements explaining their side of the case. Usually, the plaintiff and the defendant will hire legal representation to speak on their behalf and do most of the talking in court.
Presentation of Evidence and Witnesses
After each party presents their opening statements, both sides will have the chance to present evidence and try to prove their case. The plaintiff and the defendant may bring forth witnesses to testify on their behalf, and the plaintiff and the defendant can also testify on their own behalf. Each party will have the chance to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses and ask questions about any evidence presented.
Once both parties have finished presenting their arguments, they’ll give closing statements to wrap up the case. The closing statement is the last plea to the judge and jury.
After both parties deliver their closing statements, the jury will deliberate and deliver a verdict. This verdict will outline the details of the settlement won by the plaintiff if the outcome sides in the plaintiff’s favor.
When a personal injury case goes to trial, it’s like a criminal case in some ways. While criminal cases involve sentencing and fines, civil cases only involve financial punishments. Learning about the trial process excites me because the best part about being a lawyer is getting to go to court! I know I’m not even in law school yet, but I can’t wait for this stage of my career.