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Understanding a Personal Injury Trial

By Aghabegian & Associates on December 29, 2020

Roughly 90% of personal injury claims are settled out of court between a plaintiff’s lawyer and an insurance company. But what about the remaining 10%? What if the defendant’s insurance company refuses to pay a claim or will not offer proper compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries? Well, in California, so long as the plaintiff is still within the statute of limitations, then he or she can file a lawsuit in civil court for damages.

Why Do Cases Go to Trial?

Personal injury trials are typically the last resort in the claims process. Plaintiffs always have the option to file a lawsuit against another driver for an auto accident or a property owner for a slip-and-fall, but most prefer to settle their case outside of court. Most people only go to court when they have to, such as for a criminal trial, a divorce, or a custody dispute. That same fact can be applied to personal injury trials. Plaintiffs are often nervous about having to speak in front of a judge, worried about making a mistake.

Insurance companies often feel the same amount of anxiety about personal injury trials, but for different reasons. For them, claims are all about money, which is why they try to force plaintiffs to accept lowball offers as soon as possible. By getting a plaintiff to accept as little money as possible, the insurance company can avoid paying the long-term costs of a claim, including hiring investigators, paying their adjusters for long hours, and legal fees. When an insurance company is taken to court, there is always the risk that it will have to pay for court fees if the case is lost. Thus, a personal injury trial will cost insurers more.

So why would a case ever go to a courtroom? Well, it typically occurs because the insurance company refuses to pay the amount of money a plaintiff is asking for. Thus, the company may accept the risk of losing a lawsuit over the cost of paying out a large settlement.

California is also a pure comparative fault state, meaning accident victims can be partially to blame for their injuries. These laws only apply to personal injury trials, so a jury can use them to reduce the amount of money a plaintiff receives. While it is a gamble, the insurance company may believe that it can end up paying less after a trial.

Ultimately, the decision to go to trial is up to you and your lawyer. At Aghabegian & Associates, PC, we are skilled at getting proper compensation for our clients during settlement negotiations, but we are always prepared to take a case to trial. If you work with us, you can trust that you will be in good hands.

What Does a Personal Injury Trial Look Like?

When people think of a court trial, they often think of episodes of Law & Order or other crime dramas. While there are similarities between criminal trials and civil trials, the process in California is slightly different.

While the charges in a criminal trial are reviewed by either a judge or a jury, civil trials are ultimately up to a jury. In California, a jury is made up of 12 individuals who are selected by both sides’ lawyers and a judge, who will preside over the procedures but will typically not make any major decisions in your case. For you to receive compensation, your attorney will need to convince nine of these jury members to side with you.

In a criminal trial, the role of the jury is to determine if a defendant committed a crime and how they should be punished. With personal injury trials, the jury must determine if a defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and how much money they should pay in compensation. As such, personal injury trials will involve both sides submitting and cross-examining evidence about the case, including witness statements, expert testimonies, accident photos, and surveillance footage. Both sides will make opening and closing statements, and then the jury will convene privately to make a judgment.

The jury will first determine how much negligence can be applied to either side. If the jury agrees that you are less than 100% at fault for your injuries, then they will move on to the second question: how much money should you receive? Once they have that number, they will reduce the value of your case based on the amount of fault you have been assigned. For example, if your total case value is $100,000, but you receive 20% of the fault, then they will award you $80,000 in compensation. But your lawyer should be fully aware of this and utilize all of their skill and experience to advocate for the highest possible award.

Do I Have to Make a Statement?

Every case is different, but the insurance company’s lawyers do have the option of calling you as a witness in your own case. You should not worry, however. Our team can prepare you for what to say and how to answer the other lawyer’s questions. We can also cross-examine you to help clarify your statements and ensure that the jury does not misinterpret your words.

By working with a Glendale personal injury attorney at Aghabegian & Associates, PC, you can rest assured knowing that we will provide top-notch legal guidance throughout your entire case. We have more than 40 years of experience representing clients throughout Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley. We understand the process thoroughly and can advocate on your behalf in every potential scenario. To discuss your case in a free consultation, call our office at (818) 507-4311.

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