No one wants to find themselves on the receiving end of a personal injury. In the scenario you have to sue a careless person or organization for an injury, knowing what to do next can be intimidating.
The good news is the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. Only 4 or 5 percent of personal injury claims end up going to trial. But if both parties cannot agree on a settlement, the claim may go before a judge and jury of your peers.
Chances are, you’re in this unfortunate situation for the first time. You probably have a lot of questions. In this post, we want to discuss five of the top questions to ask if your personal injury case goes to trial. Let’s get going.
1. Is it Better to Settle?
A trial is generally the last resort – both parties will do everything possible to settle out of court. If the at-fault party’s insurance is refusing to offer the payout you deserve, a trial could be your best option to earn fair compensation.
Taking a case to trial always involves a risk factor. If the jury sides with you, the at-fault party’s insurance may have to pay out a large settlement. This is the best-case scenario. On the flip side, if the jury ruled in the defendant’s favor, you walk away with nothing.
Whether it’s a car accident, workers’ compensation claim, or anything else, insurance companies will usually make you an offer that’s lower than you’d like.
What you need to do is weigh that amount against the risks of going to trial. Your personal injury attorney will guide you in this decision and explain why you should (or shouldn’t) accept the offer. Additionally, they will show verdict research related to what juries typically award people with injuries like yours.
2. How Long Does Trial Take?
When any case goes to trial, it’s a safe bet that the process will take significantly longer than if it was settled out of court. The trial itself may only take a few days. However, the trial date might not take place until a year or two after the injury.
When you file a lawsuit, the at-fault party will typically be served within 30 to 60 days. From here, they will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. In other words, it can take a couple of months (or more) just to get the ball rolling.
Settling a case out of court is usually a much quicker option. You may be able to earn compensation within a few months – depending on the circumstances.
3. Will I Need to Testify?
Technically no, but victims in personal injury cases should always testify in their trial – unless they are severely injured.
Testifying in front of a judge and jury is a scary prospect for many people. In addition to a fear of public speaking, many victims of personal injuries are afraid the jurors will make unfair decisions based on their appearance. The good news is the jury selection process has protocols in place to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
Jurors start by evaluating documentation and evidence. From here, they listen to the testimony of each witness. They want to hear your side of the story to understand the struggles you’ve faced from the injury.
Your testimony can be instrumental in the jury’s decision. Your personal injury attorney will do everything possible to make sure you’re ready to testify.
4. What Types of Witnesses Do I Need?
In a personal injury trial, there are two types of witnesses: expert witnesses and lay witnesses.
Expert witnesses are there to explain complex evidence in a way the jury can understand. These might include:
- Engineers: to explain how the impact or collision can injure a person.
- Rehabilitation consultants: to explain the tasks the victim may be unable to perform due to the injury.
- Doctors: to explain the injuries the victim has suffered.
- Economists: to explain the value of the victim’s economic and non-economic damages.
Lay witnesses are there to testify what they observed – before, during, and after the incident. These might include:
- Eyewitnesses who saw the incident happen.
5. How is My Reward Calculated?
Your reward in a personal injury trial is determined by the jury after evaluating the evidence presented. This may include (but is not limited to):
- Your testimony
- The defendant’s testimony
- Lay witness testimonies
- Expert witness testimonies
- Your medical records
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will make sure you have all evidence in order long before the trial takes place. After everything is presented to the jury, your lawyer will make a closing argument explaining how the jury should compensate you. Jurors will then consider all of the damages incurred from the injury as they calculate a reward.
What’s the Next Move?
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek fair compensation. The most important thing you can do is reach out to a specialized personal injury attorney to get the process started.
Many people – who are in this situation for the first time – believe personal injury lawyers are too expensive. What they might not understand is personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee agreement. This means they collect a percentage of the settlement AFTER the case is won. They do not ask clients for a penny out-of-pocket to take the case. In other words, anyone can afford to hire a personal injury attorney.
The sooner you hire a professional attorney, the quicker you can resolve the case.