Personal Injury Claims in Charlotte: Going to Trial
Helping you prepare for your North Carolina personal injury trial
In most accident cases, plaintiffs secure more money when they win their case at a jury trial than if they settle their case. That’s the main reason insurance companies settle claims. The insurance companies know that a jury will likely award more money in a trial. If your case does not settle, you do have a right to request a trial before a jury instead of having a judge decide your case.
Jury trials are not as intimidating as you might think. They are not as dramatic as you see on film or at the movies. Most cases involve putting a live face on the reports and documents that are used to try to settle your case. You will testify about what happened and your injuries. The lawyer for the defendant has the right to question you. The defendants, expert witnesses, and any other witnesses also testify. After the opening and closing statements and the testimony of the witnesses, the jury decides if the defendant(s) are liable and the value of your claim.
Frequently Asked Questions about your personal injury trial
How long does it take to go to trial?
If your case cannot be settled, we file the court paperwork to schedule your case for trial before a jury, typically in the county where the accident happened. Once we file the scheduling request, it can take months or even years before you have an official trial date. Normally, in Charlotte and other North Carolina locations, there is a pre-trial conference that takes place a few days or weeks before the trial.
The pre-trial conference, usually between the lawyers and a judge, reviews such issues as how long the trial is expected to take, the witnesses that will be called, any motions that need to be resolved, and other trial issues. The judge may try to see if a settlement is still possible.
Who are the participants in a jury trial?
In most Charlotte personal injury cases, the participants in a personal injury case are:
- The plaintiff (accident victim) and the plaintiff’s lawyer (our law firm)
- The defendant(s) and their lawyer(s)
- The trial judge
- The jury
- A court stenographer, who records the trial testimony
- Other court officials, such as the bailiff
- Witnesses, including eyewitnesses, police officers, investigators, family, and friends who can testify to your physical and emotional difficulties, and others who can provide valuable information
- Expert witnesses, including your doctors, product liability experts, financial experts, and other experts, depending on the issues in your case
Most personal injury trials are open to the public. Anyone in the courthouse can sit in and listen, although most cases only involve the people listed above.
What is the jury selection process?
The jury selection process, or “voir dire,” aims to try to select jurors who will listen to your side and are likely to be sympathetic to you. While many jurors are fairly neutral, some jurors think accident victims should get a lot while others think they should get the bare minimum. Some jurors may favor victims while others favor businesses.
We ask jurors questions, according to court rules, to determine as much as we can about the juror – such as the type of work they do, whether they’ve ever been on a jury before, and whether they know anyone involved in the case.
In personal injury cases, the attorneys can also ask that a juror be dismissed for cause – meaning they have some knowledge of the case, they have a clear basis for partiality, they’re not physically or mentally competent, and other reasons. Each party can also use a preset number of preemptory challenges. These challenges can be used to dismiss a juror for almost any reason under the sun up to the preset number.
Our Charlotte personal injury lawyers understand the local North Carolina communities. We’re skilled at selecting fair and impartial jurors.
What is the presentation of evidence in a personal injury case?
The case begins with each side giving an opening statement. This statement discusses the evidence we will present to support your claim and shows that the defendants are liable for your damages. The defendants also make opening statements for their clients.
We normally begin your case by having you testify. Don’t worry. We’ll spend a lot of time preparing you for the questions we’ll ask and the questions the defense lawyers will ask. By the time your case is ready, you’ll have a firm sure understanding of how to answer each question. After the defense lawyers ask you questions, we will likely ask you a few more to respond to the defense lawyer’s questions. At this point, you should be able to relax while the rest of your case proceeds.
We’ll present testimony from you and any other witnesses who can help show the defendants are liable. We’ll then present testimony from your doctors and any other relevant witnesses to show the full extent of your damages.
After you and other witnesses testify, the defense lawyers can conduct a cross-examination.
Once we’ve presented all our witnesses, the defense has the right to present the testimony of their witnesses. We will then cross-examine those witnesses. In some cases, we may have you or other witnesses testify to counter/rebut arguments made by the defense.
The jury will likely watch you even when you’re not speaking. We’ll explain how you should dress and comport yourself during the trial.
How does the liability phase of the case work?
Normally, we have the witnesses who can testify about how the accident happened, and why the defendants are responsible, testify first. The defense will normally focus on the liability part first as well when they present their defense.
In some cases, such as car accidents, we need to convince a jury that a driver was negligent. In other cases, such as product liability cases, we need to prove a product was defective and that the defective product caused you harm.
How do you show my damages?
Once we’ve provided evidence to show the defendants caused the accident that caused your injuries or a family member’s death, we present evidence that supports your damage claim. Generally, this means that we ask that:
- Your doctors (usually the supervising doctor; though sometimes multiple doctors) testify about your diagnosis, the treatment you’ve had and will need, the pain you’re in, and all the ways your injuries are affecting you.
- Your doctors or others provide evidence to show all your medical expenses – current and future
- You, the doctor, and others (normally family, coworkers, and friends) testify about how much you’re hurting and all the ways the accident has changed your life
We’ll also present evidence about any income loss and property loss.
If your loved one died due to the fault of others, we file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family. If your loved one suffered before dying, the estate of your loved one can seek damages for that suffering.
How do expert witnesses help during my trial?
Expert witnesses include any witnesses who have licenses, certifications, or experience that should allow them to render opinions about their field of expertise. The most common expert in a personal injury case is your doctor. We’ll ask your doctor to provide a diagnosis of your medical condition, explain the treatments you’ve had and the treatments you’ll need, your overall prognosis, how you’re your injuries affect your ability to function, the type of pain you have, and the complications you may experience.
Other experts may include traffic reconstruction experts, product safety experts, building code officials, and others.
What happens after all the evidence is presented?
Once the testimony and evidence are presented, each lawyer will make a closing statement. This is the persuasive pitch that ties all the evidence that was presented into the reason why the jury should decide in your favor. The defendants also make closing statements. We take pride in making strong convincing closing statements.
What are jury instructions?
The judge will then instruct the jury about how they are to decide your personal injury claim. When the jury has decided on the liability issue and the damage amount, the judge will read the verdict aloud to everyone in the courtroom.
Each party to the personal injury case normally has the right to suggest specific jury instructions. As Mark Twain famously said, “The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.” We make every effort to ensure juries hear the right words.
Can you help me prepare for the jury trial?
Yes. Don’t worry. We will prepare you. We’ll normally conduct a dry run or a mock trial. We’ll tell you what to wear too. We’ll help you sound certain about the events that led to your accident. At the same time, we want juries to see and feel all your pain, worries, anger, and depression.
Relax. Generally, the best advice we can give you is to be yourself and tell the truth.
Do you have a personal injury lawyer near me?
Yes, we do. While our central office is located at 1430 Elizabeth Ave. in Charlotte, we have additional satellite offices located in Rutherfordton and in Rockingham. If you’re too ill to come to our office, we will make arrangements to see you at your home, a healthcare facility, or through a video conference.
Dedicated Charlotte personal injury lawyers
If you've been injured in an accident, don't suffer in silence. Take action and get the compensation you deserve with the help of Price, Petho & Associates. Our experienced Charlotte attorneys are dedicated to fighting for your rights and ensuring that you secure the maximum compensation for your injuries. We understand that dealing with an injury can be overwhelming, but we're here to guide you through the legal process and help you get back on your feet. You can schedule a free consultation today by calling our offices or completing our contact form. Serving Charlotte, Rockingham, Rutherfordton, and North Carolina.