The last thing a New York City pedestrian expects is to be rundown by a speeding vehicle. However, it happens fairly often, forcing the injured pedestrian to file suit against the driver responsible for the accident. Once a pedestrian has decided to file a claim in court, it is important to be aware of the civil trial process, as it differs significantly from the criminal trial process. For instance, a civil trial resulting from a pedestrian accident requires the judge or jury to determine whether the defendant should be held responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries based on a preponderance of the evidence. This standard is easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that must be met in criminal court.
In most civil trials, a jury will be selected to try the case out of a pool of potential jurors. Both the plaintiff and defendant may exclude jurors they do not think will be objective in the case. After a final jury is chosen, both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys will make opening statements, giving a general overview of their arguments and evidence. After that, witnesses and experts for both sides will testify under oath. The witnesses will face questions from the party that called them to the stand and cross-examination from the opposing side.
Once all the witnesses have testified and all the evidence has been presented, closing arguments will be made. This is the plaintiff’s final chance to show why the defendant should be held liable for their injuries and the defendant’s final chance to show why they shouldn’t be held liable for what happened. The judge will then give the jury a set of instructions to help them make a decision regarding liability and appropriate damages, if any. The jury will deliberate based on these instructions and deliver the verdict. However, if the jury is unable to reach a unanimous (or sufficient majority) verdict, the judge will declare a mistrial.
For pedestrians filing suit against the motorist who caused their injuries, the civil court process can be overwhelming. An attorney can help manage the case and handle any issues that come up during the trial.
Source: FindLaw, “Civil Cases – The Basics,” accessed on Feb. 6, 2017