If you’ve recently been in a car accident and you’re wondering what might happen if your case goes to trial, there are several things you should know. Here’s what you and your car accident lawyer can expect from the process.
Ask a Car Accident Lawyer: What to Expect When a Case Goes to Trial
The Jury Selection
A trial’s first state is called the voir dire. During this time, jury members will be selected for the trial. They will be asked questions to determine their impartiality and uncover any biases that they may have that could affect the outcome of the case.
In most car accident cases, a jury rather than a judge will be selected for the trial. Most of the time, the jury will consist of twelve people, but there may be some cases where that number is lower.
The Opening Statements
After the jury has been selected, the parties involved in the accident will provide opening statements. It’s normal for the plaintiff to go first. That’s because the plaintiff is the one making the accusations, and therefore the burden of proof falls upon them. The defendant’s attorney will follow.
Opening statements provide both parties a chance to lay out the basics of the case to the jury, and to present their sides of the story. They will also indicate what they intend to prove or refute throughout the trial. Most opening statements last for around 15 to 20 minutes.
The Plaintiff’s Side
Because the plaintiff is trying to prove that the other party was responsible for their injuries, they will present their evidence first. If you are a plaintiff, then your lawyer may call upon you to testify about what happened before, during, and after the accident.
Your car accident lawyer in San Antonio will present the other pieces of evidence you gathered during the discovery phase of the trial. They will also call upon other witnesses involved in your case, like your doctor, to go over the specifics of the accident and your injuries.
The Defendant’s Side
When the plaintiff’s attorney has finished presenting their evidence, they will rest their case. This serves as an indication that it’s time for the defendant’s side to present any evidence they may have to refute the plaintiff’s case. This process is essentially the same as the plaintiff’s side.
The defendant’s attorney will aim to provide any evidence that contradicts the plaintiff’s evidence. An example of this is calling upon a witness at the scene whose version of the events that took place is different than the plaintiff’s side. Another example would be calling upon a doctor with a different medical opinion than the one the plaintiff’s attorney called upon.
Once all the evidence has been presented to the jury, it’s time for the lawyers to make closing arguments. Just like with the opening statements, each side will have an opportunity to speak to the jury.
The closing arguments provide both sides the opportunity to offer conclusions to the case. They will attempt to persuade the jury to reach certain conclusions about the evidence presented during the trial. For instance, the plaintiff will try to show that the defendant is guilty, while the defendant will try to prove the opposite.
The Jury’s Deliberation
After the closing arguments, the jury will need to deliberate. They won’t be able to reach a conclusion together while they are in the courtroom. Rather, they will move to a separate room and discuss the trial to determine who was at fault for the car accident.
In all states, these deliberations are confidential. No one is able to observe the deliberations, including the judge. There is no set time limit for deliberations, though for most car accidents it only takes a few hours. However, in some cases deliberations can last for a few days.
Reaching the Verdict
When the jury reaches a decision, they will notify the judge that deliberations have concluded and that they are ready to deliver the verdict. At this point, the jury will return to the courtroom and read out the verdict. This will be made part of the official court records.
There is no set rule when it comes to how long a trial for a car accident may last. In most cases, trials will take just a few days to complete. However, in particularly complicated cases, the trial could last longer. No matter how long it takes, you can trust your lawyer to offer you the support you need.
Car accidents are scary things, especially if you receive any injuries. Ideally, you’ll be able to settle the case outside of court, but there are some instances when going to court is inevitable. Remember that your lawyer will be there for you every step of the way.