The lawsuit process can be intimidating. When you’re injured and are considering filing a lawsuit, it’s hard to know where to begin. Even after hiring a lawyer and getting started, the process can be hard to figure out. What do you have to do? What does your lawyer do? What happens at trial? What happens between now and then?
To help you understand the lawsuit process, let’s look at a one specific piece of the personal injury process: the judge’s role. Specifically, let’s look at what the judge will and won’t do if your case goes to trial.
Judges, Personal Injury Cases & the Law
In a personal injury case, the judge serves as a trier of law. The trier of law is responsible for making a ruling over the legal issues brought up during the course of the trial.
For example, a woman sues the driver of the car that struck her while she was riding a bike. Because the injured woman filed a lawsuit, it is up to her to prove that the other driver was at fault. This is called the burden of proof. To meet that burden of proof, the injured woman’s lawyer calls witnesses and experts who offer their testimony about the facts and the issues involved in the case.
During the testimony, the car driver’s lawyer might raise objections. Objections are based on the legal rules that determine what can and cannot happen when someone offers evidence. When such objections come up, it is up to the judge to determine what the law is and whether the objections raised are valid or not. Judges are also responsible for ensuring the trial takes place in an orderly, impartial manner, and that all sides comply with the rule of law.
Bench or Jury Trials in a Personal Injury Case
If the judge is responsible for determining what the law is, who is responsible for determining who wins or loses the case? The answer to this question is the trier of fact. Who is the trier of fact? That depends.
Many, if not most, personal injury cases that go to trial are held in front of a jury. In a jury trial, the jury serves as the trier of fact. The trier of fact’s job is to try to find out what happened, find out what the facts are, and eventually, determine who wins the case.
However, there are some situations in which the judge can serve as both the trier of law and the trier of fact. Not all trials are held before a judge and jury. Some cases might be held only in front of a judge. In these cases the judge serves as both the trier of law and the trier of fact. This means the judge will not only make rulings about the laws involved in the case, but will also listen to the evidence each side presents to determine what happened. Once the evidence has been presented, the judge will then determine who wins.
If you are the victim of an accident, you should contact a Personal Injury Attorney in your area to discuss your situation and to gather further understanding of the legal process.