What Happens When a Case Goes to Trial?

What happens when a case goes to trial

If you are trying to make a decision about whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering about the process. Let’s say you have a lawyer who has agreed to take your case. What happens next? And how likely is it that you will end up in court? Let’s answer some of the most common questions our plaintiffs have about when a case goes to trial.

What Happens When a Case Goes to Trial?

You might be surprised to learn that, in the United States, of those cases that don’t get dismissed by the court, only four to five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. That means that about 95% of cases are settled out of court. But before we talk about what happens in court, let’s back up and review how your case actually gets to court.

Meeting With An Attorney

Once you think that you may have a claim against a business or individual for causing you harm, you’ll speak with a personal injury lawyer. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations, so that you can determine whether you have a claim that could be successful. When you have your first meeting, you’ll provide information to the lawyer about what led you to want to file a lawsuit and answer a series of questions. The more information you can provide to your attorney, the better he or she will be able to determine the best next steps. In addition to discussing the details surrounding your case, the lawyer will talk to you about practical matters, such as the different expenses and fees and how long they believe it will take to resolve your case. Most, if not all, personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. That means that you don’t pay for any expenses, including the lawyer’s fees, unless they win your case. If the lawyer agrees to take your case, you’ll sign a representation agreement stating that they will officially be your attorney for this particular case.

Filing Papers and Fact-Finding

At the beginning of a lawsuit, your attorney will file court documents stating the facts that support your claims and who you are suing. In Texas, these documents are called the “original petition.” In addition, your attorney will prepare and file what are known as a “summons,” which is a notice to the defendant about your lawsuit, and “service of process,” which is the procedure by which notice of the lawsuit is actually given to the defendant. The defendant typically has a limited time in which to respond to your original petition. When responding to an original petition, a defendant will usually just file what is known as an “original answer.” In this original answer, the defendant will often just generally deny everything in your original petition until the defendant has a chance to discover more facts about the lawsuit you have filed.

After your original petition is filed, the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is a term used to describe written requests for information from the defendant and any non-parties that may be helpful to your case. Such requests include written questions (interrogatories), requests for production of documents and inspection of premises or land where the injury occurred, and depositions. Depositions are interviews of witnesses, which are documented by a court reporter and involve an attorney asking the witness a series of questions. Interrogatories are written questions submitted to the defendant that are to be answered and sworn to in writing. Both sides must have access to all the documents which relate to the case. The defendant can and will apply these same discovery requests and procedures to you as well.

Resolving Your Case Before Trial

Much of what happens before a case can go to trial is known as “motion practice.” Motions are requests filed by lawyers asking the court to decide an issue relevant to the case. Such decisions are known as “rulings.” Some rulings might even end the lawsuit before it ever goes to trial. For example, the defendant might file a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss the case might be filed for:

  • Lack of subject matter jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have the legal authority to rule on your case)
  • Lack of personal jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have legal authority over the defendant because the defendant resides outside of the court’s “jurisdiction”)
  • Improper venue (the lawsuit hasn’t been filed in the correct court)
  • Insufficient service of process (the defendant wasn’t given proper notice of the lawsuit)
  • Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (there is no legal remedy for the harm caused you often because either the defendant’s conduct isn’t considered wrongful in the eyes of the law or your harm cannot be actually traced to the defendant’s wrongful conduct)

Once the case is further along in the discovery process, the defendant may also file what is known as a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the defendant can show that you, as the plaintiff, cannot prove some element of your claim. Typically, in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must have evidence to support each element of his or her claim. A negligence claim, for example, consists of the following three elements: 1) a wrongful or negligent act or omission on the defendant’s part, 2) a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant not to commit that wrongful or negligent act, and 3) a harm to the plaintiff caused by that negligent or wrongful act or omission. If you do not have sufficient evidence to support each and every one of the above elements, then summary judgment could be granted against you and your claim will be permanently denied.

That being said, legal claims are often resolved before trial through a negotiated settlement process. When this happens, the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any further legal action in exchange for a payment from the defendant or insurance company. In many instances, both parties may agree to mediate the case prior to the case going to trial. In a mediation, both parties present evidence that supports their claims while a neutral party—the mediator—tries to get the two sides try to agree on a settlement amount. If the parties do not agree, the case often then proceeds to trial.

When Your Case Goes To Trial

What does going to trial mean, exactly? If you are involved in a personal injury case, a trial provides the opportunity for the plaintiff to argue his or her case so that the judge or jury can examine the evidence, decide what really happened and rule on whether to find the defendant liable or responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Typically, a personal injury trial consists of choosing a jury, opening statements by the lawyers for each side, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments by each side, jury instructions given by the court and deliberation—that is consideration of all the facts and the law that applies—by the jurors. Once the jurors have made their decision, a verdict will be issued by the court.

After jury selection, each side has a chance to make its case in opening statements. The witness testimony and cross-examination stage is the main part of the trial. The plaintiff works to convince the jury that the defendant is liable for the damages or harm caused to the plaintiff. Witnesses and experts are called to testify, in which they take an oath to be truthful and answer questions asked by each side’s attorneys.

Once both sides present their case, closing arguments offer once last chance to convince the jury before their deliberations begin. The judge provides specific instructions to the jury to help them make their decision and then the jurors consider the case as a group. Once the jury has made a decision, the judge announces the verdict.

What Happens After a Trial in Court?

If you win the case, the defendant is often required to pay monetary damages. Ordinarily, an insurance company is involved and payment of your damages should not be a problem, because the insurance company is prepared for this very type of situation. However, in some cases, when the jury or judge awards you damages in your personal injury lawsuit, the losing party may not have insurance or may refuse to pay the judgment amount or follow the court order. In most states, you can locate a person’s sources of income or assets during post-judgment discovery. You may even be able to collect your settlement from the opposing side’s paychecks.

Slack & Davis Can Help You During All Stages of Your Personal Injury Case

Our legal team at Slack & Davis has the experience and skills to guide you through each stage of the process. Whether it’s asking the right questions to gather information to support your side, investigating the defendant to help the judge and jury understand how the defendant could have avoided hurting you if it had just done the right thing, presenting evidence at trial or helping you secure a settlement, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way.

Part 23 Reform & What it Could Pose

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) are rules set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing all aviation activities in the United States. The rules includes Part 23, which details airworthiness standards required for issuance and change of type certifications for certain airplanes, as well as determines special aspects of aircraft performance.

In 2016, the FAA released a final rule to streamline the certification process, and it was deemed a victory for many in the aviation world, providing groundbreaking provisions for aircraft manufacturers. The new rule allows manufacturers to use performance-based standards in place of prescriptive manufacturing methods that have slowed down development of new designs and technologies and caused aircraft certification costs to sky rocket. The new certification process will remove certification categories, such as utility and aerobic and, instead, use four levels of performance and risk testing based on the aircraft’s seating capacity.

Despite the advantages to the aircraft manufacturers, Part 23 reform could pose some serious consequences for the rights and safety of passengers. Under the new rule, if an aircraft meets the airworthiness requirements set forth in the Part 23 certification process, the manufacturer will not be held responsible if a crash occurs due to defective parts, dangerous designs, negligence or failure to warn of a known hazard.

Part 23 aircrafts are also known to have a history of accidents and safety issues. The reform of this rule would take away the ability to hold manufacturers liable for defective parts and allow them to continue producing unsafe aircrafts. The reformed certification is meant to bring much needed technological and safety improvements; however, there has been very little light shed on its dangers to consumers, which should have been weighed heavily in this decision.

The attorneys at Slack & Davis have handled many cases involving Part 23 aircrafts. If you or a loved one have been involved in an aviation accident and need help, call us for more information at (800) 455-8686.

Slack & Davis in Best Lawyers® Business Ed.

Partners Mike Davis, John Jose, Ladd Sanger, Michael Slack, and Of Counsel Paula Sweeney were included in the Best Lawyers® Business Edition for their plaintiffs’ work in personal injury litigation.

For more than three decades, Best Lawyers® has become regarded as the definitive guide to legal professionalism and excellence around the globe. Best Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey where more than 52,000 leading attorneys cast 5.5.million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in more than 130 practice areas.

Read the full Business Edition.

Common Construction Site Injuries

Common Construction Site Injuries

A report released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that over 9 million Americans worked in the construction industry in 2014. Unfortunately, construction frequently lands on lists of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. In fact, one in five fatalities that occurred on the job in 2014 took place on a construction site. We’ll discuss which injuries are most common in this line of work and what workers can do if they experience an injury on a job site.

Common Construction Site Injuries

Each day, almost six and a half million construction workers head to over 250,000 sites across the country. Working in construction involves manual labor and the use of a variety of hand and power tools. Although the specific tasks can vary, workers might clear and prepare sites for new builds, build bridges, create trenches, set up support braces or scaffolding, operate heavy equipment, pave roads, demolish existing structures and clean up debris and rubble. The dangerous nature of these tasks makes construction workers particularly vulnerable to a wide range of injuries.  

Burns

Working with electrical wiring, chemicals, leaky pipes and many different types of machinery can expose construction workers to the risk of fires, which can lead to burns and scarring.

Head Injuries

The reason that you often see construction workers wearing hard hats is that injuries to this part of the body are common while on the job. Falling objects, tools and materials can lead to cuts, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, among other conditions. Workers who are involved in digging or building a structure from the ground up are particularly at risk for these types of injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The activities most commonly associated with spinal cord injuries at a construction site involve falling off ladders, scaffolding or other elevated platforms or areas. Sadly, these situations can result in partial or full paralysis, damage to the brain and lasting and debilitating disabilities.

Cuts

Not surprisingly, lacerations to the skin are a common construction site injury. Some of the more common construction site hazards that can lead to cuts include defective or poorly maintained tools and machinery, equipment that is not properly secured and exposed nails. If not properly treated, these wounds can become infected, requiring further medical attention. Wearing protective clothing and gear can help reduce these types of injuries.

Bone Injuries

The use of heavy machinery can lead to broken, fractured or even crushed bones. Equipment like bulldozers and cranes can cause serious damage to workers on a construction site if used by someone with improper training. Additionally, this type of equipment can lead to accidents if not properly secured when not in use.

Loss of Limbs

Damage to a construction worker’s extremities can result in the loss of a finger, toe, arm or leg. Heavy equipment and machinery can crush these body parts. In some cases, limbs or digits are so damaged in a construction accident that amputation is required.

Hearing Loss

Construction sites are loud places. The noise generated from heavy equipment and machinery can lead to construction workers’ hearing damage or loss. Workers can experience damage when operating jackhammers and other loud equipment without ear protection or if struck on the side of the head or on the ear by an object or falling materials.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

The manual labor required in the construction industry involves repetitive motion, whether it’s lifting materials or tools or bending down. Repetitive stress injuries frequently cause back problems, which can prove to be debilitating for construction workers.

Heat Stroke

Working outside year-round can expose construction workers to heat-related health problems. A throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea and cramping can indicate that a worker is experiencing heat stroke. If an individual does not seek treatment, heat stroke can lead to organ damage and failure and eventually death.

Loss of Vision

Construction workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals, gases and other materials at job sites which can damage eyesight. In the most severe cases, exposure to these materials can lead to partial vision loss or even blindness.

Avoiding Injuries on the Job Site

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established by Congress to set and enforce workplace safety standards and provide training. OSHA recommends that companies include all necessary safety equipment and tools when estimating the cost of a job. Workers should receive proper training in the use of all heavy machinery, equipment and protective gear. All tools should be well-maintained and in proper working condition. Regular safety inspections can spot potential problems before workers are put at risk.

What To Do If You or a Loved One is Involved in a Construction Site Accident

Damages sustained as a result of a construction site injury can be serious and long-lasting. In most cases, a victim can submit a claim under their state’s workers’ compensation program. However, in some cases, they may be eligible to seek additional compensation through a “third party claim.” These cases may involve the wrongful act of someone else, such as when a tool or machine malfunctions or if an individual is involved in a motor accident on the job.

The dedicated professionals at Slack & Davis can help advise victims on all of their options. In some situations, they may be entitled to compensation to help offset the financial loss if they are unable to resume work, if they have a lasting disability or if they suffered a more serious injury, paralysis or even death. The attorneys at Slack and Davis understand how serious injuries can impact a worker and their family’s day-to-day life. We have worked with many victims to help them get them the compensation they deserve to meet their immediate and long-term needs.

Mike Davis Featured in Oak Hill Gazette

For the last 30 years, Slack & Davis Partner and Co-Founder Mike Davis has made it his mission to ensure that children in the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association (OHYSA) in Austin were building confidence, learning something new, having fun and forging long lasting friendships.

For Davis, his involvement in OHYSA began as a volunteer when his son first started playing T-Ball. At the 50-year anniversary of the ballfields, Davis spoke with the Oak Hill Gazette and remarked that volunteering was a slippery slope – he first started out as a “helper dad,” then became an assistant coach, and the following year he was head coach. From there, his involvement with the league continued, landing him on the league board and subsequently in the position of President from 1998 – 1999.

During his tenure, he came up with the idea for tournament play with other youth sports associations to provide players greater exposure and help them better transition between league and high school ball. “It turned into a big deal that’s continued to this day,” said Davis.

Even when Davis was diagnosed with lymphoma, he told the Gazette, “About the only thing I looked forward to every day was when I was out there on the field coaching my team.” Years later, Davis noted that coaching still provided a release for him from the stresses of his work as an attorney. He was able to get as much back as he was giving, which extended beyond volunteer work. When floods hit South Austin a few years ago and completely devastated the sports complex, Davis and the firm contributed financially to all restoration efforts, even sponsoring brand-new scoreboards to celebrate the firm’s 20th anniversary and to honor the sports complex.

Through his later years at Oak Hill, Davis learned the true value of coaching when he no longer had a child on the team. He was a more laid-back coach, and even though the team did not win often, each kid signed back up for the next year. “If we do our jobs right as coaches, they’ll love it no matter if they win or lose.”