Juries in Personal Injury Trials
One important aspect of a personal injury trial is determining who will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the case. There are two options for rendering the verdict: the judge or a jury. In California, you have the right to have a trial by jury in civil cases, including personal injury cases.Jurors
In civil jury trials in California, a jury is composed of 12 jurors, unless the parties agree in court on a smaller number. The judge calls a panel of prospective jurors, who are then asked questions by the court and counsel for the parties during a process called voir dire. The questioning process allows the parties to make sure the jurors are unbiased and can make a fair decision.The Role of the Jury
A jury’s duty in a civil case is to determine what the facts are and apply those facts to California law. In any lawsuit, there are multiple perspectives and versions of what has happened. The jury’s role is to decide which party presents the most accurate representation of the facts and the best argument under the law. To make this determination, they must examine all the relevant information, including witnesses, documents, and expert testimony. They then apply that information to the law that they have been given, and make a decision regarding the outcome.
To inform the jury about the relevant law, the court provides jury instructions, which include how to apply facts to the law and guidance in coming to a decision. Each side submits the instructions they think are most applicable to the case, and the judge chooses which instructions are appropriate for presentation, which he or she then reads to the jurors.
In civil cases in California, three quarters of the jurors must agree in order for the jury to render a verdict. This contrasts with criminal cases, which require a unanimous verdict.Costs
Parties to a civil case have the right to a jury trial, but if parties demand jury trials, they must pay for it. There is a nonrefundable $150 fee from each side demanding a jury trial. Additionally, each day, any party who demands a jury must pay the day’s fees and each juror’s expenses, including travel expenses. If both parties demand a jury, the division of fees is either determined by agreement of the parties or is decided by the court.Waiver
Jury trials in civil cases are optional, not mandatory. A party can waive the right to a jury by:
- Not appearing at the trial;
- Giving written consent;
- Giving oral consent in court;
- Failing to announce that a jury is required within specified time limits;
- Failing to pay the required initial fee, unless another party on the same side of the case has already paid; or
- Failing to pay the required daily court costs.
The court, in its discretion, may require a jury trial even if the right has been waived.
Litigating a personal injury case is complex and difficult, but an experienced attorney can help you make such crucial decisions as whether a jury trial is right for you. If you think you have a personal injury claim, please contact the experienced San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation at (408) 289-1417.