If you have been injured in an accident, it is important that you receive compensation for what you have endured mentally, physically, and financially.
Contacting a personal injury attorney and pursuing damages may seem overwhelming, so it can be helpful to understand the process of what happens in a personal injury trial should litigation prove to be the best strategy for your case.
Not all cases go to trial, but some do. At Tenge Law Firm, it is important to us that you are comfortable with your path forward. We are more than willing to answer any questions you have about the legal process generally, as well as what you can expect in your case specifically.
What Percentage of Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?
Though the exact percentage is unclear, approximately 95% of personal injury cases are settled, meaning 5% or less end up going to trial. There are many reasons most cases settle.
Litigation can be lengthy and expensive, so parties to a lawsuit will always want to weigh the benefits and downsides of pursuing maximum compensation in front of a jury versus accepting a settlement offer. Every case is unique. That being said, it is a good idea to always be mentally prepared in case your lawsuit ends up before a judge or jury.
Why Is My Personal Injury Case Going to Trial?
While there are a number of reasons a case may go to trial, here are three of the most common reasons.
Dispute Over Liability
The person who caused the accident should ultimately be liable for the damage they have caused. However, genuine disputes can arise over which party bears responsibility.
Colorado follows the rule of modified comparative negligence, which means that you can file a claim even if you were partially responsible for the accident as long as your share of fault was less than that of the other party.
The percentage you are deemed at fault will be deducted from your compensation. Because of this, a defendant will likely attempt to minimize the part they played in causing the accident, which can lead to disputes over liability.
Dispute Over Damages
If the parties are unable to agree on the scope or value of damages in a case, it may need to be decided by a judge or jury. For example, the plaintiff may feel like their injuries are serious and life-changing, in which case they deserve significant compensation, while the defendant believes that the injuries are exaggerated.
While it is rare that parties completely align on damages, they are usually able to negotiate to find an amount that satisfies both parties. When they are unable to find an agreement, however, the parties will take their arguments to a judge or jury to have the matter decided for them.
Dispute Over a Key Issue of Fact or Law
It is important to understand the issues of fact and law surrounding the accident so the nature of injuries and liability are not misrepresented.
Oftentimes, parties take different positions as to key facts or the applicability of certain laws in a lawsuit, which can make reaching a settlement difficult. For example, a defendant may assert that the plaintiff’s injury existed prior to the accident, in which case, they should receive less compensation.
When Can a Settlement Agreement be Made?
Most personal injury cases, though not all, start as a claim against the negligent party’s insurance provider. However, if the injured party cannot reach a fair settlement with the insurance company, the claim may become a lawsuit.
A settlement agreement can happen at any time during the litigation process, but there is generally a point at which both parties believe a trial is the best way to find a resolution.
What Happens In a Personal Injury Trial?
Knowing what happens in a personal injury trial can help relieve some of your stress and uncertainty about your case. When a case in Colorado goes to trial, the court proceedings can last anywhere from a single day to several weeks.
The length will ultimately depend on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the number of witnesses providing testimony, and any procedural issues that may arise. Generally, each trial will have the following stages:
Pre-trial motions are used by attorneys on both sides to establish boundaries for the trial. These motions are filed as requests for the judge to make a decision prior to the start of the trial. Some common pre-trial motions include a motion to exclude evidence, a motion for a change of venue, or a motion to dismiss the case.
A jury of 12 people will be selected to hear your case. Both attorneys will narrow down the group of potential jurors through a series of questions meant to identify any biases preventing the juror from making an impartial decision. Each attorney has a set number of “peremptory challenges” that they can also use to strike potential jurors from the pool.
Once the jury is seated, the trial begins with each side making an opening statement about the nature of the case and what they intend to prove. The statement will act as a preview for the jury and will refer to facts and evidence each party intends to rely upon throughout the trial.
Presentation of Evidence
Both sides then have a turn to present their case by conducting a direct examination of their witnesses and a cross-examination of the other party’s witnesses. Throughout the questioning of witnesses, attorneys will introduce evidence relevant to the case that the jury can consider during its deliberation. Sometimes, when a witness is unavailable, a declaration may be presented in lieu of live testimony.
A closing statement is the attorney’s final opportunity to explain to the judge and jury why their position is correct and they should win the case. This usually includes a summary of the evidence presented, an argument about the applicable laws, and a clarification of any issues that may have seemed unclear.
Once the trial has concluded, the judge will instruct the jury on the requirements of the law that are to be applied and their duty to decide the case.
Jurors are not allowed to consider any facts or evidence not presented at trial and are typically not allowed to access the internet or talk to anyone about the case during their deliberation. The jurors will discuss the facts and evidence amongst themselves and ultimately decide the case in favor of one of the parties.
In a civil case, the jury will decide in favor of the plaintiff or defendant. If they find for the plaintiff, they will likely also decide the amount of damages the defendant is required to pay. Sometimes this may happen during a separate hearing regarding damages.
The experienced team at Tenge Law Firm handles all types of personal injury cases, and we understand how confusing the process can be.
Our firm is selective in the number of cases we take on, meaning we can offer unparalleled personalized service to our clients. We are here to help you receive the compensation you deserve, and that process looks different for everyone depending on your unique circumstances. Contact us to schedule a free case consultation.