Opening Day: Going to Trial -
What to expect at your trial
Opening Day at Yankee Stadium versus the Red Sox brings with it excitement, anxiety, possibility and hope. So does the opening day of your personal injury trial. When you're ready to begin the process, use this simple form to get your free legal review.
Most of our clients settle out of court and never have to worry about their trial day. We may be able to help you achieve large settlements for your claim because we know what to do in the event of a trial from opening day right through the verdict. If your case comes to trial, don't worry, a Weitz & Luxenberg lawyer can be with you every step of the way telling you what to expect. As an American, you have the right to have your case heard in court and we can help you protect that right. Find out if we accept lawsuits for your type of injury.
Often long before the opening day of the lawsuit, your case begins with the plaintiff's lawyer filing a complaint with the court. Your Weitz & Luxenberg attorney will do this for you. This complaint will state that the plaintiff is seeking damages or equitable relief from a stated defendant, and what the legal and factual bases for doing so are. The clerk of court then issues a summons, or serves process, upon the defendant to notify him that he is being sued and provide him with the nature of the claims. Once the defendant receives this notice, he has a limited time within which to file a response explaining his defenses to the plaintiff's claims, including any challenges to the court's jurisdiction. Find out if we accept lawsuits for your type of injury.
The early stages of the lawsuit, not long before opening day of the trial, may involve discovery, which is the ordered exchange of evidence and statements between the parties based on what they each expect to argue during the actual trial. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises and clarify what the lawsuit is about, and perhaps to make a party decide whether it should settle or drop the claim, all before utilizing court resources. At this point, the parties may also engage in pretrial motion filing in order to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial, by preventing the other party from presenting a particular witness or arguing a particular legal theory.
At the close of discovery, the parties may pick a jury and then have a trial by jury. Or, the case may proceed as a bench trial heard only by the judge, if the parties waive a jury trial, or if the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed for their particular claim (such as those under equity in the U.S.) or for any lawsuits within their jurisdiction. Find out if we accept lawsuits for your type of injury.
Trial and Judgment
When the opening day arrives, the lawsuit may then proceed similarly to a criminal trial, with each side presenting witnesses and submitting evidence, at the close of which the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff's lawyer has the burden of proof in making his or her claims, which means that it is up to him or her to produce enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury that his or her claim should succeed. The defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, however, such as affirmative defenses.
There are numerous motions that either party can file throughout the lawsuit to terminate it "prematurely"--before submission to the judge or jury for final consideration. These motions attempt to persuade the judge, through legal argument and sometimes accompanying evidence, that because there is no reasonable way that the other party could legally win, there is no sense in continuing with the trial. Motions for summary judgment, for example, can usually be brought before, after, or during the actual presentation of the case. Motions can also be brought after the close of a trial to undo a jury verdict that is contrary to law or against the weight of the evidence, or to convince the judge that he should change his decision or grant a new trial.
Also, at any time during this process from the filing of the complaint to the final judgment, the plaintiff may withdraw his complaint and end the whole matter, or the defendant may agree to a settlement, which involves a negotiated award followed also by the plaintiff withdrawing his complaint and the settlement entered into the court record. Find out if we accept lawsuits for your type of injury.
After a final decision has been made from trial, either party or both may appeal from the judgment if they are unhappy with it (and their jurisdiction grants the ability). Even the prevailing party may appeal, if, for example, they wanted an even larger award than was granted. The appellate court (which may be structured as an intermediate appellate court and a higher supreme court) will then affirm the judgment, refuse to hear it (which effectively affirms), reverse, or vacate and remand, which involves sending the lawsuit back to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly for a whole new trial. Some lawsuits go up and down the appeals ladder repeatedly before finally being resolved. Find out if we accept lawsuits for your type of injury.
When there finally is a final judgment, the plaintiff will likely be barred under res judicata from trying to bring the same or similar claim again against that defendant, or from relitigating any of the issues, even under different legal claims or theories. This prevents a new trial of the same case with a different result, or if the plaintiff won, a repeat trial that merely multiplies the judgment against the defendant.
If the judgment is for the plaintiff, then the defendant must comply under penalty of law with the judgment, which will usually be a monetary award. If the defendant fails to pay, the court has various powers to seize any of the defendant's assets located within its jurisdiction. If all assets are located elsewhere, the plaintiff must file another suit in the appropriate court to seek enforcement of the other court's previous judgment. This can be a difficult task when crossing from a court in one state or nation to another, though courts tend to grant each other respect when there is not a clear legal rule to the contrary. A defendant that has no assets in any jurisdiction is said to be "judgment-proof." In most cases, nothing can be done to collect an award from a moneyless defendant.
Unfortunately for plaintiffs, imprisonment of an indigent judgment-proof defendant is simply not available as an alternative remedy; debtor's prisons have been outlawed by statute, constitutional amendment or international human rights treaties in the vast majority of common law jurisdictions.