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Should You Have a Judge or Jury for Your Personal Injury Trial?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 12, 2016 5:59 AM

You have sued for personal injury and the case hasn't settled. Now you need to decide whether you want a judge or jury trial for this civil suit. Your lawyer says a jury is the way to go but you just don't know.

Isn't a judge better-equipped to understand the issues? Why rely on the response of a bunch of strangers who know little about the law? Can a jury of your peers possibly understand the issues in your case? All these questions are legitimate, and the answer to all of them is the same: It depends.

What Your Peers Hear

If your lawyer suggested that a jury trial is the wiser choice, you should seriously consider the recommendation. Your lawyer knows your case and personal injury practice and probably has a feel for what touches juries.

Juries may be more moved by a plaintiff's plight than a judge who hears personal injury claims all day. What sounds like a compelling tale of suffering to a panel of your peers might sound like a sob story to a judge and, thus, fall on deaf ears. Your lawyer likely wants to spin a sad yarn for a receptive audience rather than plead with an experience-hardened arbiter.

There is more to conducting a trial than just storytelling. But good storytellers move juries and bad ones leave them cold. If your injury case is easy to understand and can be told in a compelling way, a jury trial is the way to go.

Complex Cases

That said, judges are humans too and they can certainly be moved. Sometimes, when a case is particularly complex and involves difficult legal issues, a judge is the appropriate audience for your injury claim.

In difficult cases, a judge is often better equipped to cut through the jargon and see where injustice has occurred. Sometimes a complicated claim seems too convoluted to a jury unfamiliar with the law and legal standards. The jury may be disinclined to award damages because it looks like you're just fighting for whatever you can get, rather than the victim of negligence.

Consult With Counsel

You should feel free to question your attorney and ask for explanations when you disagree with or don't understand a recommendation. But remember that your lawyer studied long and hard to pass the bar exam and probably knows a thing or two about practice that you do not. That is after all why you hired counsel.

If you or someone you know has been injured due to someone else's negligence, don't delay. Speak to a lawyer today and get your claim assessed. Many attorneys consult for free or no fee.

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