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Typical Stages of a Personal Injury Jury Trial

While the vast majority of personal injury claims and cases that are brought will be resolved via a settlement between the two parties involved, there are definitely some exceptions to this. In cases where the parties simply cannot agree on liability or other key parts of a settlement, a jury trial may be required to ultimately settle the matter. 

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we're here to offer the very best personal injury attorney services you'll find around Salt Lake City, Draper, Provo and other parts of Utah. Our attorneys assist with a huge range of cases, from car and truck accident liability to wrongful death, dog bite cases and many others. While most of our cases do end up settled outside of court, as is common in this industry, we're also experienced in handling cases that proceed all the way to jury trial as well. Here's a breakdown of the general stages and process of a jury trial for a personal injury case, plus what to be thinking about if you're part of a case that has made it to trial. 

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A Quick Word on Bench Trials

Before we get started, a quick word on bench trials - that is, trials that do not involve a jury, and are overseen only by a judge. These are significantly less common than jury trials in personal injury cases, but they do happen. 

In most bench trials, the judge will be responsible for making all decisions and rulings related to the case, while also determining relevant facts and evidence. Bench trials can sometimes lead to quicker resolutions than jury trials, but not always - it depends on how much evidence is available and how much is being disputed. 

Our subsequent sections will cover the typical stages of a jury trial - many of these will be similar to parts of bench trials, but some will be different. 

Jury Selection Process

Assuming your case has required a jury trial, the first step will be to select jurors for the trial. This process takes place in court, and is referred to as "voir dire" - a French term meaning "to speak the truth." The goal of this process is for each side to determine who they believe would be a good juror for the case, then filter out any who may have biases or prejudices. 

Jurors will be asked questions by both sides and must answer truthfully - this often includes questions about their backgrounds, beliefs and other relevant information that could impact the outcome of the case. Ultimately, a pool of jurors is chosen from these initial questioning rounds - usually around 12 or so for a civil case. 

Opening Statements

Once the jury is selected, both sides will have the opportunity to give opening statements that outline their position and what they plan to prove during the trial. These statements are not meant as evidence themselves, but more of a roadmap for how each side views the case and its key points. 

Evidence and Testimony From Witnesses

As we get into the meat of the trial, each side will present their evidence and testimony from relevant witnesses. This can include expert opinions, eyewitness accounts, and more - all meant to support or refute claims made by either side. Each witness will also be subject to cross-examination by the opposing attorney. 

Witnesses for a personal injury case can vary widely, from medical professionals to accident reconstruction experts and more. They will also commonly include the plaintiff themselves, and may include friends or family members who can speak to the impact of the injury on their loved one. 

Closing Arguments

Once all evidence and testimony has been presented, both sides will have the opportunity to make closing arguments - a final attempt to sway the jury in their favor. This is often where attorneys will summarize key points of evidence or highlight specific inconsistencies in the opposing side's story. 

The plaintiff's attorney will typically make the first closing argument, followed by the defendant's attorney. Typically, the plaintiff will get the "last word" via a short rebuttal to the defense's closing argument. 

Jury Instructions

Now that both sides have made their case, the judge will instruct the jury on what they are to consider when making their decision. This can include specific laws, relevant evidence and other considerations that may impact the outcome of the case. 

Deliberation and Verdict

Once instructed by the judge, jurors will retreat to a private room where they will discuss the case amongst themselves and come to a decision. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the case. Once they have reached a verdict, it will be delivered in open court and read aloud by the judge. 

Appeals

It's important to note that either side has the right to appeal a jury's decision if they feel there were errors made during the trial. This can lead to a higher court reviewing all evidence and potentially overturning or changing the original decision. 

If you have any further questions about jury trials in personal injury cases, our experienced attorneys at William Rawlings & Associates are always here to help. We're happy to walk you through this process and make sure you feel comfortable every step of the way for any personal injury case across SLC, Draper, Provo or any other part of Utah.

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