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Discovery and Trial in Auto Accident Case Litigation

17th June 2009
By The Schafer Law Office in Legal
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Depending on the complexity of the case, the discovery phase can take many months or sometimes years. One of the first issues that will arise in the process will be what is called "discovery". Discovery is when the opposing side of are required to reveal all of the important facts of the case. When discovery is completed, and each side knows what evidence will be offered at trial, the parties may conduct additional settlement discussions. The Court will usually order mediation. In mediation, the parties hire a retired Judge or an experienced attorney who will assist the parties in reaching a settlement. Mediation can be voluntary or Court ordered and is nonbinding (unless a settlement is reached). A mediation session is also confidential. Anything that is said during the session cannot be used at trial. Many times mediation can be used to successfully resolve a case.

If you fail to settle the case after the discovery process has ended, the case will then proceed to trial. Each side has the option of trying the case before a Judge or Jury. A jury trial occurs in 99% of all personal injury cases that are tried. If a case is held before a Judge only it is called a "bench trial". A bench trial will take a lot less time because there will not be the need to select a jury. Also, with a bench trial the only one making a decision is the judge, not an entire jury panel.

A jury trial will take several days. All the evidence is presented to a jury of 12 people who will make the decisions as to what your case is worth. There will be times when the trial is anticipated to take several days more than 12 jurors will be selected. All of the jurors will hear all of the evidence and then right before deliberation the alternate(s) will randomly be selected and not deliberate. The process is complicated and will not resemble a T.V. trial. The phases of a trial include Voir Dire (jury selection), opening statements, the Plaintiff's case, Defendant's case, rebuttal, closing arguments, jury instructions and deliberations. Even if you are successful at this point and receive a plaintiff's verdict the case may not be over. The defendant can make a motion for a new trial and then appeal the case to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. This process can take years. Sometimes there is a legitimate issue. Other times the defendant hopes that rather than spending the time going through the appeals process the case will settle for less than the verdict amount.


About The Author

Michael A. Schafer is an attorney who concentrates his law practice in personal injury litigation in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of "7 Potholes That Can Wreck Your Kentucky Accident Case" and "What You Don't Know About Buying Car Insurance Can Hurt You".
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