The Personal Injury Process in Tulsa: Going to Trial
How does a personal injury trial work in Oklahoma?
If the insurance companies do not make an offer you are inclined to accept, your case will proceed to trial. The great majority of all personal injury trials will be to a jury instead of to a judge – only one party must request a jury prior to the Pre-Trial Conference. Because of the costs and inherent risks of trial most insurance companies will perform a final evaluation of the claim, considering all variables of the case, to reach their absolute top authority on a given file. Sometimes that will be enough to get a claim settled but for others, it merely confirms the need to have a trier-of-fact decide the fate of the parties.
How can we help?
- How long does it take to go to trial?
- Who are the participants in a jury trial?
- What is the voir dire process in Tulsa?
- How does the presentation of evidence in a Tulsa personal injury case work?
- How does the liability phase of the case work in Tulsa?
- How do you show my damages in Tulsa?
- What happens after all the evidence is presented?
- What are jury instructions?
- What happens if I win?
- What happens if I lose?
- Do you have a personal injury trial lawyer near me?
How long does it take to go to trial?
Preparing for a trial can take a long time – months, or even years. It depends on the circumstances of your case, the severity of your injuries, the number of parties involved, and many other factors. But once the decision is made, the trial is normally scheduled within a few months of the Pre-Trial Conference.
Most of the work for a trial is completed before the Pre-Trial Conference pursuant to deadlines set forth by the Court. Our lawyers use the discovery process to question everyone involved and to obtain all the necessary information. We’re skilled at anticipating the arguments the defense lawyers are likely to make. Our experience helps us understand the way your judge will likely conduct the trial and rule on evidentiary issues that may arise. Much like the makings of a recipe, once you have all the ingredients in place and understand the step-by-step process, presenting your case in court is usually fairly straightforward if you are adequately prepared. Preparation, however, requires understanding and appreciating the potential for a case to end up at trial long before the Court puts your case on their trial docket.
Who are the participants in a jury trial?
In most Tulsa personal injury cases, the participants at the trial include:
- You and your lawyer(s)
- The defendants and their lawyer(s)
- The trial judge
- The jury
- A court stenographer who records the trial testimony
- Other court officials who assist the judge and/or bailiff
- The witnesses for each side including investigators, police officers, eyewitnesses, medical witnesses, expert witnesses and family/friends who will testify about an injured person’s harms and losses
Normally, personal injury trials are open to the public. Members of the gallery are free to come and go as they please, although most cases only have people directly related to the case in attendance.
What is the voir dire process in Tulsa?
Voir dire is a fancy term for the jury selection process. Counsel for each party have a right to question the prospective jurors to determine if they have any biases and to further delve into their personal experiences to glean whether they would be a good fit for the case at hand. Generally, there are a list of standard questions that are asked by the judge of each potential juror about his/her background. Once those questions have been asked and answered the attorneys for each party are given an allotment of time to further inquire.
That process allows the attorneys and the judge to select the final jury members from the overall jury pool. Per OK Stat § 12-575.1:
- if the case be triable to a twelve-man jury, eighteen prospective jurors shall be called and seated in the box and then examined on voir dire; when eighteen such prospective jurors have been passed for cause, each side of the lawsuit shall exercise its peremptory challenges out of the hearing of the jury by alternately striking three names from the list of those so passed for cause, and the remaining twelve persons shall be sworn to try the case;
- if the case be triable to a six-man jury, twelve prospective jurors shall be called and seated in the box and then examined on voir dire; when twelve such prospective jurors have been passed for cause, each side of the lawsuit shall exercise its peremptory challenges out of the hearing of the jury by alternately striking three names from the list of those so passed for cause, and the remaining six persons shall be sworn to try the case.
Normally, each side can seek to dismiss jurors for any reason up to a preset number. After that number is used up, each side must have cause (some specific indicator of a bias) to disqualify a juror.
Our Tulsa trial lawyers understand how to question jurors, and what answers to the questions might indicate a bias or a concern.
How does the presentation of evidence in a Tulsa personal injury case work?
At the start of the case, each side has the right to make an opening statement. This statement is the opportunity to set forth their version and theme of the case the jury will hear. Each side then has the opportunity to present their witnesses, and evidence through their witnesses. As the party initiating the claim, the plaintiff goes first. The defendant is then permitted to cross-examine each witness called by the plaintiff with the latter being allowed to present the last line of questioning if they choose to do so.
Once the plaintiff rests, meaning they will be submitting no more evidence or witnesses for the jury to consider, the defendant is permitted to call all witnesses and present all evidence it wishes the jury to consider. Up until that point in time, the defendant and his or her attorneys are unable to call their own witnesses and instead are only permitted to work with those called by the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s then follow the same sequence of cross-examining the defense witnesses until the defense rests their case.
Don’t worry – your attorneys will thoroughly prepare you for your trial setting. To be honest, preparing to take the stand and answer questions from your attorney as well as opposing counsel will be the most direct involvement you have in your case. By that time your legal team should know where the defense will likely try and attack your case and will arm you with the means to stand your ground. After testifying you will likely remain in the courtroom for the remainder of the proceeding but will more or less be an observer from counsel’s table. That said, the jury will have an ongoing opportunity to observe you throughout the trial even though you may not be on the witness stand. Consequently, you will receive instructions on how to act, react and conduct yourself while in the presence of the judge and jury.
How does the liability phase of the case work in Tulsa?
There are two essential parts to every personal injury case. The first part is showing that the defendants are liable for your injuries or the death of a loved one. Simply put, it is determining who is at fault or responsible for a given event. In order to prove liability, we generally need to show that the defendant(s) owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty, and that the breach caused your injuries.
For example, in a car accident case, we begin by asserting that all drivers owe all other drivers on the road a duty to drive safely based on Oklahoma’s traffic laws. We then show what the driver did wrong in causing a particular event. We don’t have to show the defendant violated a specific law; that just helps. We can also show the driver breached his/her duty of care by acting negligently in any way, such as driving too fast for traffic conditions. The third element, causation of injuries/damages, usually comes in the form of a medical professional tying your injuries to the specific event.
How do you show my damages in Tulsa?
The second part of your personal injury case involves showing what damages, or losses, you have incurred. We can do that in several ways:
- We have your doctor(s) testify about what injuries you suffered, what treatment you have undergone and will need in the future, the cost of that care, and how your injuries are causing pain and suffering, loss of bodily function, and any other damages.
- You will testify as to all the healthcare professionals you have seen and will see in the future. You will also testify about your pain and suffering and every way your injuries are making your life difficult. Our attorneys will extrapolate how their clients’ lives have been changed from the simplest of tasks to activities that are no longer able to be enjoyed.
- We’ll introduce the evidence needed to show all your financial damages (medical bills, lost income and benefits, and property damage) and all your non-economic damages (pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, loss of consortium, and other damages).
- We will call before-and-after witnesses, which are oftentimes family, friends, and co-workers, who will provide their perspective on how the injury-causing event and its effects continue to impact your daily life physically, financially, and mentally.
What happens after all the evidence is presented?
After each side presents its case, each side will have the right to make a closing argument to the jury. The closing statement is generally a review of the evidence that was presented and a persuasive appeal to tie all the evidence together. It is the last time the attorneys will get to speak to the jury before they begin their deliberations. It is critical for the closing argument to highlight and address the most important aspects of the case so that those issues are front and center once they enter the jury room.
What are jury instructions?
After the closing statements, the judge will instruct the jury on how they are supposed to decide your claim. Generally, the instructions will define many terms, instruct the jury about what they can and cannot consider, and explain how they can determine liability and what damages they can award.
You should know that there are a LOT of jury instructions, and with good reason. The appeals process for civil claims can be complicated, and most judges don’t like it when their cases are overturned. So, the jury is given very specific instructions before and after your case.
What happens if I win?
If you win, meaning the jury finds in your favor on the issue of liability and orders the defendant to pay you a sum of money, a judgment will be entered. That judgment is a piece of paper which obligates the defendant to pay you the amount of the verdict. Even though the law may forbid you from mentioning any insurance companies at an Oklahoma personal injury trial, in most cases it is actually the defendant’s insurance carrier who bears the responsibility of writing the check to satisfy any potential judgment. However, any party to a case always has the right to appeal a judgment within a specified period of time. If the defendants don’t appeal, or if they lose their appeal, then the insurance companies for the defendants will be required to pay the amount of the award. In addition to the principle amount of the judgment, Oklahoma law also allows for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest as well as payment of certain costs borne by the prevailing party.
What happens if I lose?
If you lose, then we will review with you whether an appeal is viable and likely to succeed. There are different reasons for filing an appeal, including mistakes by the trial judge and the improper admission or exclusion of certain evidence. The appellate courts will then generally either decide that you should have a new trial or deny your appeal. The appeal process can easily take many months or years depending on the complexity of the issues raised on appeal.
Do you have a personal injury trial lawyer near me?
We’ll review what to expect at the jury trial from the comfort of our offices located at 1646 S Denver Ave. and 6305 E 120th Ct. Suite K9. We will meet you at your home or a healthcare facility and are always happy to offer video and phone consultations if you are unable to travel.
Our experienced seasoned personal injury lawyers will guide you through each phase of your claim. By the time your case is ready for trial – you will be prepared.
Speak with our respected Tulsa trial lawyers today
At Biby Law Firm we prepare each case as if it will end up at trial, knowing full well that the great majority of files will not.
For help with any Oklahoma personal injury claim, call our experienced trial attorneys or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We proudly serve all of Oklahoma including the communities of Broken Arrow, Bixby, Claremore, Jenks, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Wagoner, Owasso, Muskogee, and the surrounding areas.