Posted in Personal Injury on September 7, 2021
The vast majority of car accident cases in Texas do not go to trial. They end with settlements between the injured accident victim and the insurance carrier of the at-fault driver. In some scenarios, however, a car accident case may have to go to trial, where it will follow certain steps to reach a resolution. Knowing what to expect during a trial can lend you greater peace of mind as an injured car accident victim.
The first part of a car accident case in Texas is negotiations between the victim and the insurance company to try to reach a settlement. If a settlement is not possible, the case can go to trial. You or your car accident lawyer will file the paperwork to bring a car accident lawsuit against one or more defendants. The courts will set a trial date. Then, you and the defendant will enter the discovery phase.
The discovery phase is the very beginning of a lawsuit, where both parties have the chance to gather information from the other side. The main aspect of discovery is asking questions. This is done through both in-person interviews (depositions) as well as written questionnaires called interrogatories. The answers are recorded and given under oath. Documents and other types of evidence are also exchanged in the discovery phase.
Before the trial begins, both parties engage in jury selection. A group of potential jurors will be asked questions by both attorneys. Their answers are used to eliminate potential jurors until there is a panel of 12 jurors remaining.
When the trial commences, both sides will give their opening statements. The plaintiff’s attorney goes first, as it is his or her burden to prove the claim being made. Opening statements are summaries of what each attorney plans to prove or refute throughout the trial.
Presentation of Evidence
The main portion of a car accident trial is the presentation of evidence. In any type of personal injury case, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove the allegations claimed based on a preponderance of the evidence. This is enough clear evidence to convince the jury that the defendant more likely than not caused the accident or injuries in question.
During a car accident trial, both sides of the case will present evidence to support their claims, such as medical records, photographs, videos and crash reconstruction diagrams. They can also call witnesses to the stand to give oral testimonies. Common examples are eyewitnesses who saw the crash take place and medical or car accident experts. The presentation of evidence can take one or more full trial days.
Once all of the evidence has been presented, the attorney for each side will give a closing argument. This is their chance to try to persuade the jury to give a certain verdict based on the evidence provided. The closing arguments are a recap of the case and an urge for the jurors to come to the desired conclusion.
Jury Deliberation and Verdict
The final stages of a car accident trial are jury instructions, deliberation and the verdict. The judge will first give the jury its instructions, which typically include an explanation of the burden of proof, a list of the key legal elements of the case and the jurors’ responsibilities. The jury will then go into private deliberations to determine if the plaintiff met his or her burden of proof. If so, the jury will side with the plaintiff. If not, the defendant will be found not liable.
A positive verdict will result in a judgment award paid to the injured car accident victim. However, the party that loses the case may be able to file an appeal (challenge the verdict). Without an appeal, the victim can expect compensation within 15 to 40 business days. For more information about what to expect during a car accident trial, consult with an attorney in San Antonio.