Trial in New York
Most personal injury lawsuits – including those stemming from car accidents – will be settled out-of-court through mutual agreement long before the case ever reaches the trial phase. Only about five percent of all injury claims will go to trial.
At the New York Lawyers Team, we work tirelessly to negotiate a fair settlement agreement on behalf of personal injury victims.
But when there are disagreements about issues critical to the case – such as who is at-fault or the cause or extent of claimant’s injuries or what is a reasonable amount of damages – we do not back down from taking a case to court.
Our legal team has decades of personal injury trial experience. We aim for an amiable resolution in pre-trial negotiations, but we are a formidable force in the courtroom. Trial is often a last resort, but it can be necessary to ensure injured plaintiffs receive the compensation they deserve.
We conduct a complete and thorough investigation and discovery, seek as necessary the input of expert witnesses and carefully formulate the best legal strategy for success.
What is a Trial?
A personal injury trial is a civil proceeding.
Whereas settlement negotiations occur out-of-court, trial proceedings happen in court. The trial is the culmination of litigation. Leading up to that are pre-trial motions, and discovery and depositions in preparations for trial.
A traffic accident trial could either be tried solely by a judge (called a “bench trial”) or before a jury in a “jury trial.”
In either case, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence that is most favorable to their position. Most crash claims are based on a finding of negligence, which requires plaintiff to prove:
- Defendant had a duty of care to others (to drive safely)
- Defendant breached this duty of care
- Breach of care caused injury to plaintiff
- Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of that injury
The standard of proof in car accident lawsuits is a “preponderance of the evidence” (as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard in criminal cases). In other words, the judge or jury will be asked to decide the probable truth or accuracy.
Some cases are decided – at least in whole or in part – by a judge before the case actually goes to trial. This is called a “summary judgment,” and it is issued when the questions only come down to a matter of law.
A summary judgment is granted for one party and against another summarily, without a full trial.
It’s not uncommon for both sides to file motions for summary judgment prior to trial, though courts may not grant one unless there is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury.
A judge may also decide to bifurcate (or split) the trial on certain issues and grant summary judgment only on part of the dispute. For example, let’s say the parties disagree on which driver was at-fault and the level of damages claimed by plaintiff. The judge could bifurcate the proceedings, grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on the issue of fault and then order trial to proceed on the issue of damages.
How a Trial Works
The trial process starts long before the actual trial.
While there are some variations, this is the general process:
- Complaint. After issuing notice of intent to file a lawsuit, plaintiff files a complaint in the appropriate jurisdiction, spelling out the details of the accident, the extent of injuries, claims of negligence and damages asserted.
- Defendant answer. Defendant has a deadline by which to answer that complaint, either admitting or denying those accusations made in the complaint.
- Discovery process. Both plaintiff and defendant will have an opportunity to build their respective cases by asking questions of witnesses (interrogatories), collecting records such as from cell phone companies, car maintenance shops and medical doctors and taking sworn depositions and affidavits from witnesses.
- Pre-Trial motions/process. Before the trial, both sides can make a series of requests to the judge for rulings that may be favorable to their case. For example, motions to suppress are filed when one side wishes to keep certain evidence from being considered by the jury. Motions in limine may limit a certain line of questioning. During this phase, both sides can also ask court to compel the other side to comply with a request for information or evidence.
- Trial. During the actual trial, both sides have the opportunity to present that evidence, call those witnesses and challenge the accuracy of the other side. During this process, it is the plaintiff that bears the legal burden, not the defense.
- Verdict and Damages. Jurors will be asked to decide which side they found more believable. If they side with plaintiff, they will be asked to ascertain how much plaintiff should receive in damages.
If you have questions about your personal injury or accident case, call us today to learn more about how we can help.
Contact the New York Lawyers Team today for a free and confidential consultation.