If you’re like most Americans, you are probably nervous about going to trial. You perhaps have only seen the sleazy trial lawyers and heard about the rigid courtroom protocols.
Chances are, you don’t even know what to expect once you enter the trial court but your attorney surely does. So if your attorney prefers jury trial for your personal injury claims and justice over having a judge deciding the case, you should better listen to him/her.
That said, there are certain advantages to one over the other. For example, juries are keenly perceptive and sympathetic to the plight of the victim whereas a judge deciding the case is especially beneficial for particularly complicated cases. Therefore, you might sometimes wonder which one is better. Let’s see why attorneys usually prefer jury trial for personal injury claims and justice.
Judge vs. Jury Trials
There are several factors that you need to consider before opting for a jury or a judge trial.
Cases decided by a judge without the jury are called “bench trials” and the judge here usually takes on two roles. First, he/she administers the admissibility of evidence as well as resolves questions of law.
Second, the judge acts as the finder of fact determining the credibility of the evidences and witnesses. Bench trials are better options if you are representing yourself in court as it will save you from the more complex legal formalities such as choosing a jury, making an opening statement, cross-examining witnesses, closing arguments, depositing jury fees, submitting jury instructions and so on.
Another advantage of a bench trial when you are representing yourself is that you don’t need to know the laws and rules of evidence while arguing your case.
Chances are, the judge might ignore evidences provided by the defendant that your attorney normally would have objected to. The same evidence, when presented to a jury may affect their opinion of the case, even though the judge instructs them to ignore it.
As mentioned, a bench trial is particularly beneficial for legally complicated cases that are more likely to confuse the jury. However, bench trials often tend to favor defendants and as a result, defense attorneys recommend bench trials especially when it comes to personal injury insurance defense.
A jury trial, on the other hand, is more sympathetic to injury victims and often grant enormous verdicts. And this is one of the prime reasons why an attorney favors such trials for your personal injury case.
Why a Jury Trial is a Better Choice
A trial by jury is usually a better choice for most personal injury plaintiffs. Let’s see why:
- Juries Follow A Preponderance of The Evidence
For one thing, a personal injury case falls under a civil case and therefore the standard of proof is less complicated compared to that of a criminal one. A jury trial is more humanitarian and sympathetic in nature and juries typically adhere to a preponderance of the evidence.
This means, your personal injury attorney needs to present just enough evidence to the jury to make the facts you want to prove “more likely than not” true.
As a result, your attorney does not need to bother much about burden of proof to make defenses throughout the course of your case. Moreover, most juries find that plaintiffs have already shown a preponderance of the evidence by just reaching to the point of a court-room trial.
Hence, the job of the plaintiff’s attorney becomes much easier. Instead of focusing on the legal intricacies the defense attorney might point out, your lawyer can concentrate on maximizing the available recovery.
- Juries are Better Audiences
Compared to a judge, a jury is a better audience. All your attorney needs to do is tell a compelling story to successfully communicate with the jury. Jury members typically like to assess fault by analyzing the story. The arguments and testimonies are what they listen to in order to unfold the drama. Their verdict is based on who they believe is right under a given circumstance.
In comparison, you can hardly persuade a judge with the emotional aspect of your case. Unlike a jury member, judges have a subtler understanding of the law as these people are highly experienced legal professionals and their decision is always based on legal nuances. They won’t be interested in listening to your story, no matter how captivating it is.
- The Amount of Recovery
This is perhaps the biggest advantages of having a jury trial for your personal injury claim. The juries usually tend to award an enormous amount to the plaintiff since they are ruled more by their passions, unlike judges.
If your attorney has a particularly compelling story to tell about how you suffered injury or harm and how much the defendant was to blame for it, you are more than likely to receive a much heftier award. In fact, the biggest personal injury claim verdicts in the history of U.S. came from jury trials.
The Grass isn’t Always Greener
While jury trials have many advantages, they are not without pitfalls. For example, a jury trial usually lasts longer than a judge trial. This, in turn, raises your legal costs.
Besides, you need to address the jury properly and rightly select a panel while avoiding the various procedural pitfalls, often created by juries. It is therefore necessary to opt for a highly experienced, licensed personal injury attorney when pursuing a jury trial.
Choosing between a jury and a judge trial is easier said than done. It is not always possible to predict which kind of trail would better suit your case.
The general rule of thumb is to opt for a jury trial if you have an emotional case, whereas judge trials are better suited for cases that deal with specific legal questions. Therefore, you need to first ensure that a jury trial is the best option for you before asking for one and your attorney is the best person to evaluate your merits.
Kathleen Standley is a freelance content writer & blogger and a marketing geek. She is an avid reader and has been writing and blogging for the last 5 years. Presently, she works with Mike Bottaro – an expert Rhode Island Personal Injury Lawyer and Founder of The Bottaro Law Firm, LLC based in Cranston, RI. In her spare time, she loves to hang out with friends and enjoys meeting new people from her industry.