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Understanding How Your Personal Injury Trial Will Play Out – Part One

You have been maintaining your personal injury diary. You have met with your attorney. You have reviewed your deposition and medical reports. Perhaps you have participated in mediation. Nothing has resulted in the resolution of your case and your personal injury trial is looming. We strongly encourage you to review our blog on How to Prepare for Your Personal Injury Trial in the State of Georgia to review other trial prep tips.

On the Day of Trial

            

  • Arriving at the Courtroom. On the day of trial, you should not be surprised if your case is not the only case on the court’s calendar. It is not uncommon to put two or more cases on a single calendar. This is because, even on the day of trial, most cases settle. Consequently, you should expect settlement attempts to continue, even on the day of trial. It is unlikely you will see these settlement conversations first hand.

 

  • A Meeting Between the Lawyers and the Judge. You should expect that the judge will want to meet with the lawyers in the judge’s chambers before the start of the trial. Many judges will use this as an opportunity to determine whether a last minute settlement can be made. If no settlement can be made, the judge will still want to talk to the lawyers.

They will discuss things such as how long the parties anticipate the testimony will take; whether or not there are experts or other witnesses with specific time constraints; whether the lawyers or the parties have external obligations, such as a 6:00 p.m. day are pick up time, which might require a hard stop to testimony on a given day.  There may also be a discussion about proposed witnesses and planned exhibits. Just because you have a witness or an exhibit doesn’t mean the judge is going to allow the testimony or admit the exhibit. Some testimony and exhibits are considered run of the mill, while others may not meet the rules of court and the rules of evidence.

  • Considering an Offer. Do not worry about the parties settling the case with the judge without consulting you. While the lawyers may discuss potential settlement proposals in chambers, they cannot resolve the case alone. If an offer is made, your lawyer is obligated to convey that offer to you – even if they are pretty sure you will reject the offer. They also have to convey the offer to you even if they are convinced that you would welcome an offer as proposed. You, the plaintiff, are always in control of that decision.

However, a good attorney does not simply throw out a number and ask the client to make a decision in a vacuum. Valuable information may have been gathered while in the judge’s chambers. The judge may have told the lawyers, “A case with similar injuries was tried in front of me last week. The jury only awarded $10,000.” If there is an offer to settle for $15,000, a prior jury’s view might be an important consideration. Of course, no case is identical to another case, but lawyers and judges who try these cases regularly know that jury’s moods and inclinations change over time. What might have been a $25,000 case five years ago may be worth much less – or much more in the opinions of jurors today.

You may also expect your attorney to tell you of any decisions the judge has made about your witnesses or your exhibits. The inability to have an exhibit or certain testimony admitted could impact your case negatively. Further, the court may decide to prohibit testimony or exhibits that the other side had planned to introduce into evidence. This could weaken their case. It may also increase an offer for settlement. Your attorney’s job includes making sure you have all the information you need in order to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of taking a case to trial versus accepting a negotiated settlement.

 

  • Having the Case Continued. Even though your case has been set on the jury trial calendar for months, maybe even over a year, it is possible it will not be tried on the date it was originally set. There are any number of reasons for delay. It is possible that the court does not have enough days set aside on their calendar to hear the entire case. It is possible that there are not enough jurors available to hear your case, taking into account all the other cases juries are assigned to hear on the day of your trial. This is a fairly common occurrence. Some days, every case that is set for trial settles, resulting in an abundance of jurors. Other days, no cases or very few cases set for trial settle, resulting in a dearth of jurors. Most trial days are closer to the middle; enough jurors to go around with a few extras who get sent home early. The problem is, there is no way to know which of these scenarios may play out on the day that your trial is set – until the day of your trial.

Another reason your case may be continued is that one or more of the witnesses scheduled for the trial have become unavailable. Particularly in cases involving expert witnesses, it is not uncommon for one medical professional or another to be unavailable. Obviously, you do not want to try your case without the necessary medical professionals on your side.

The judge can only take one case at a time. It is possible the judge will select a case other than yours to hear on the day of your trial. Decisions about which case to try on a given day can depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The policies of the court;
  • The length of time each case will take;
  • The age of the case; and
  • Other factors the court finds important.

If You Have Been Injured

If you have been injured and have questions about a trial or how to recover damages, it is important that you seek legal counsel. The skilled personal injury lawyers in Atlanta at the Bader Law Firm, LLC can assist you in your personal injury case. Contact us today.

            

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Seth Bader

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