What Happens if a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial?
But many clients have never been involved in an accident, much less a lawsuit that ultimately leads to a trial. In fact, many cases are settled before the case goes to trial, as both sides arrive at an agreement for a settlement. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, just four percent of car accident cases actually go to trial.
So what can you expect if your car accident case goes to trial? Let’s take a look at what you can expect as your case progresses to this stage of the legal process.
A Look at What Happens When a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial?
In the weeks and months leading up to the trial, your attorney will set out to gather information and evidence, including accident reports, medical records, photographs of the accident scene and injuries, witness depositions and expert opinions on your case from medical professionals who can offer testimony in your case.
When you go to trial, you will need to present evidence in an attempt to prove that the other party is liable and that your financial losses, injuries and other damages were a direct result of the accident. So this fact-finding stage in your case is vital.
In the pre-trial proceedings, you will go through a process called discovery, when both sides share information. Based upon this information and evidence, your attorney will develop a strategy for your case.
Any time before your case reaches trial — even in the hours before the case is slated to begin — you could receive a settlement offer. So this is always a possibility, but it’s important to be prepared and ready to head into the courtroom. The burden of proof is much lower in the civil courts. Instead of proving your case “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is required in the criminal courts, the civil courts involve a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the jury must find that the scales are just slightly tipped on one side’s favor; that it is more likely than not that something did (or did not) occur.
Civil courts allow for the choice of a trial by judge (called a bench trial) or jury. In the case of a jury trial, a six-person jury (plus one alternate) will be selected, sworn in and the trial will proceed, with the plaintiff’s attorney presenting first and the defendant’s attorney presenting second. Each side will present evidence and testimony, arguing their side of the case before the judge and jury. Once arguments are complete, each side will deliver closing arguments and the jury will proceed to deliberations. They may arrive at a verdict or, in some cases, a verdict may be impossible. In these cases, the involved parties may face another trial, opt for mediation or they may opt to arrive at a settlement.
Once the verdict is rendered, you do have the option to file an appeal. Your personal injury lawyer can help advise you on the best course of action for your unique case.
If you’ve been injured in a Clearwater car accident, contact Florida personal injury attorney Jeffrey W. Hensley, P.A. to discuss your case in a confidential consultation session. Call 727-781-3433.