Auto Accidents: The Trial
The courtroom can be a very intimidating place, especially to those who have never had the experience of being inside one. Because your injury attorney will typically appear on your behalf during pre-trial hearings and other pre-trial mattes such as mediation, and depositions do not generally take place at the courthouse, the trial may be your first time in an actual courtroom. By this point, your injury attorney will have provided you with details regarding what to expect, as well as what is expected from you. Although you should have a good idea as to the length of the trial, in accordance with the time that opposing parties have blocked off on the judicial calendar, it is not uncommon for a trial to go longer than initially anticipated. The dedicated Chicago accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. make it a point to ensure that our clients are fully prepared for the trial process far before the trial is set to begin. The following is a general overview as to what to expect during trial, however our injury attorneys encourage you to inquire further if questions still remain.
- Preliminary Matters: After the judge has confirmed that all parties are present in the courtroom, the judge will introduce him or herself, and then proceed in addressing any existing preliminary matters such as outstanding motions, or the time frames that each party will need for each portion of the trial such as jury selection, opening and closing statements, and presentation of evidence.
- Voir Dire: A legal term referring to the process in which opposing parties select jury members from a pool. This will either occur immediately, or after any preliminary concerns have been addressed, if any. Opposing parties will then evaluate potential jury members from the available juror pool. During the jury selection process, referred to as voir dire, jurors may be excused for two reasons, as follows:
- Preemptory: Attorneys from each side are permitted a specific number of preemptory strikes, which allow an attorney to excuse a jury member without having to state a reason.
- Cause: Either the judge or counsel for a party can request that a jury member be removed for a specific reason. Common challenges for cause include general disqualifications such as mental or physical incapacity, language barrier, unavailability, as well as actual or implied bias.
- Swearing in of Jury Panel: After the jury is selected the jury is sworn in and takes an oath to follow the law as it pertains to the case.
- Preliminary Matters: Prior to opening statements, the jury may be cautioned, instructed, or otherwise provided with preliminary information regarding foundational matters such as burden of proof, the elements required for a specific claim or defense, or any other relevant and appropriate instruction that may assist the jurors’ understanding.
- Opening Statements: After the jury has been compiled, instructed, and sworn in, each party will present its opening argument, often called an opening statement. The Plaintiff goes first since he has the burden of proof.
- Presentation of Plaintiff’s Case-in-Chief: Attorney for the Plaintiff presents its case in chief, including witness testimony, expert testimony, medical provider testimony, and any other supporting evidence presented through the use of testimony or exhibit. Defendants will be afforded the opportunity to examine each witness presented by Plaintiff.
- Presentation of Defendant’s Case-in-Chief: Attorney for the Defendant presents its case in chief. Plaintiff is afforded the same opportunity to examine opposing testifying witnesses. It is not uncommon for the parties to agree beforehand that evidence shall be presented in a particular order, even though such order deviates from common procedure.
- Direct Examination vs. Cross Examination: During presentation of the opponents’ case-in-chief, both direct and cross examination will generally occur. Examination of a party’s own witnesses, is referred to as direct examination, while examination of an opposing party’s witness, is refereed as cross-examination. Following direct and cross examination, each attorney will have the opportunity to examine the witness again, in a process called re-direct examination, followed by the opponent’s opportunity to re-cross examine.
- Jury Instructions: Although this may seem fairly simple, this is actually a very important component of the trial process. The instructions that are provided to the jury for use during deliberation, and particularly the specific questions posed within, can greatly affect the outcome of a case. Typically counsel for each party will submit the format and/or contents of instructions which they wish to be used, whereupon a final draft is created based upon agreement between parties, or in cases of disagreement, oral argument presented by opposing parties and the judge’s ruling thereupon. The jury is then charged with these instructions, reminded of the legal, moral and ethical obligations as jury members, and then excused from the courtroom and directed to the jury deliberation room to begin deliberations.
The accident and injury team of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. is comprised of experienced trial attorneys. We provide aggressive representation beginning with the initial stages, and will continue to work vehemently to get the compensation deserved throughout the entire personal injury process.
If you or a loved one were involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to know that it is always your final decision, as the client, that determines whether to accept an offer of settlement or to proceed to trial. A licensed Illinois attorney can explain the risks and benefits of both. For a FREE personal injury consultation with one of our Chicago injury and accident attorneys, contact us today at 773-516-4100, or online, at our website.