Accidents happen when you least expect them and unfortunately many people are injured in the process. Whether you get into a car accident, motorcycle accident or get injured on the job, you may be entitled to some compensation for your loss of wages, medical expenses, and the pain and suffering you endured. While most of these lawsuits are settled pretrial, The Law Dictionary claims that 4%-5% of all personal injury cases in the United States go to trial. In Suffolk County, a personal injury trial is laid out in a very specific format with two distinct phases.
If you’re going to trial, it’s important to understand what to expect throughout the entire process. Suffolk County, NY has a bifurcated trial system which means there are two separate parts of the trial. The first part deals solely with the liability and the second part focuses on the damages. If you win your trial, you are awarded a total amount that is determined by the verdict of both phases.
Phase One of a Personal Injury Trial: The Liability Phase
The first phase of a personal injury trial centers around how and why the accident happened and who is at fault. To begin the trial, both the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney will make opening statements. This is when they set the stage for what’s to come and provide a guide map for the jury about what they’ll cover over the course of the trial. The first phase focuses solely on the liability which means that no injuries or evidence of damages can be presented. This is done strategically so that the jury can look at the facts and the evidence and make a decision without emotion.
During this phase, you’ll often hear testimony from key people including the plaintiff, the defendant, witnesses, and potentially the investigating or reporting officer. Physical evidence will also be provided. This can include anything from the police accident report to photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles in the event of a car accident. The jury then takes this information and fills out a questionnaire where they determine the negligence and percentage of fault of both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Phase Two of a Personal Injury Trial: The Damages Phase
The second phase of a personal injury trial is known as the damages phase. This portion of the trial deals directly with what physically happened to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney focuses on the pain and suffering the plaintiff endured along with the loss of income and all medical expenses. In this phase of the trial you’ll likely hear from doctors, vocational experts, economists, and life care planners. All testimony is aimed at determining how the accident affected the life of the plaintiff and what the combined value is of the pain and suffering and financial burdens endured.
The jury then takes all of this information and establishes the value of six different factors. These include past and future pain and suffering, loss of wages, and medical expenses and the jury is responsible for assigning a specific value on each of these. At the end of the trial, once both phases are complete and the jury has reached their verdict, the determination is made. The total value from the damages found in phase two is offset by any percentage of liability the plaintiff was found to have during phase one and a total amount is reached.
Attorney Mark T. Freeley from The North Shore Injury Lawyer has over 30 years of experience as an attorney and is an expert on personal injury trials in Suffolk County. As one of the most trusted personal injury lawyers in Long Island, he’s the best choice when you’re looking for help. If you’re in Suffolk County and are looking for a personal injury attorney that has your back, give Mark a call today at 631-495-9435!