For most people, going to court is something they dread doing, and is a last resort. This is the case not only for injury victims, but also for their legal representation and the party against whom they are filing suit as well. Going to court is expensive, time-consuming, and can be unpredictable; you never know what a court will decide.
As such, going to court is usually reserved as something that is done only in the event that a settlement out-of-court cannot be reached. Ideally, the two parties will come to an agreement during out-of-court mediations or settlement talks.
In some cases however, a plaintiff’s injuries are so serious, or a defendant is so stubborn, that even the toughest of negotiations are not successful. When this is the case, going to court may be the only option.
What to Expect in Court
Going to court can be an intimidating experience, so it is important to prepare yourself adequately. During a trial, the following will take place:
- Choosing a jury. The judge, your attorney, and the defendant’s attorney will have the opportunity to question a pool of jurors in order to create a jury that is fair for everyone.
- Opening statements. Both you and the defense (or your respective lawyers), will have the opportunity to give opening statements to the court that highlight what will be discussed in the case and why you deserve (or do not deserve, in the defense’s case) compensation for your injuries.
- Testimony. The third step will be giving testimony, and calling any eyewitnesses or experts to the give testimony as well.
- Closing arguments. Again, both parties or their lawyers will have an opportunity to speak before the court and summarize why they believe that the jury should vote in their favor.
- Jury instruction, deliberation, and verdict. The judge will instruct the jury as to what legal standards apply to the case, and then the jury will deliberate. Deliberation may be as short as one hour or as long as multiple days. When the jury has reached a unanimous decision, this decision will be presented to all parties by the court.