Connecticut Personal Injury Trials by Ryan McKeen
Movies, TV reports, and books are almost always written about one aspect of law: trial. No one has yet to sell a movie about the attorney who drafted the most amazing trust ever.
This post explores the elements of a Connecticut personal injury jury trial. Personal injuries include: car wrecks; medical negligence; legal malpractice; dog bites; fall downs; negligent security; and dental malpractice cases amongst other things. Personal injury cases can be tried before a judge or a jury. However, they are most commonly tried before a jury. This post deals with jury trials only.
Every Connecticut personal injury trial begins with jury selection (voir dire). In jury selection the lawyers for the parties seat 8 jurors. There are 6 jurors and 2 alternates. Each lawyer can strike 4 jurors for any legal reason (can’t discriminate on basis of race for example). Other jurors can be removed for “cause”. Cause is simply a bias that would prevent the person from serving. Jury selection in Connecticut can take as little time as a day and possibly a week or more.
Opening statements are an opportunity for all parties to introduce their respective cases to the jury. Opening statements are not evidence. The purpose is to allow the parties the opportunity to orient the jury to issues they may hear in the case. The plaintiff gives the first opening statement. And then the defendant gives an opening statement. Opening statements can vary in length depending on the evidence that will be presented at trial. Lawyers do not argue in opening statements.
Plaintiff Case In Chief
The plaintiff must present his or her case. In an injury case the plaintiff may call all or some of the following people: eye witnesses; police officers; records keepers; doctors; family; the plaintiff; expert witnesses; and other fact witnesses. The plaintiff has the sole burden to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. During this time the defense may cross examine any of the plaintiff’s witnesses.
The defense does not have to call any witnesses. The defense does not have to prove anything. The defendant may choose to call its own experts, fact witnesses, or any other person useful to explaining its case. The plaintiff has the opportunity to cross examine defense witnesses.
The plaintiff may choose to call witnesses to rebut the defendant’s case.
Evidence in Connecticut Personal Injury Cases comes in the form of testimony both live and recorded, documents, and pictures.
Unlike opening statements, attorneys are permitted to argue what they think the evidence means. Closing arguments are not evidence. The plaintiff goes first, followed by the defendant, and then the plaintiff has one last opportunity to rebut what the defense has said in closing arguments.
The judge will instruct the jury on the law. This is called a jury charge. Once the jury is charged they will go into a private room and deliberate. Juries have as long as they would like to deliberate. When a jury reaches a decision it is called a verdict.
The jury foreperson gives a note to the jury clerk stating that a verdict has been reached. The jury then returns to the courtroom and presents the verdict to the court clerk. The court clerk then reads the verdict. Then judgment enters and the case is over.
This is the basic structure of a Connecticut personal injury trial. Many pages could be written about any of the phases of a trial. If you have any questions about Connecticut personal injury trials please contact Ryan McKeen at 860 471-8333. I make myself available for media inquires.