Most personal injury lawsuits settle outside of court. If, however, a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. When a civil lawsuit goes to litigation, most often a jury decides if the defendant was negligent and should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. If so, the jury will then determine how much the defendant needs to pay the plaintiff for his or her damages. Since the case will be in the jury’s hands, each side will try to get a jury they believe will be sympathetic to their position.
Voir dire is the process by which a jury is selected, and is therefore a very important component of a personal injury case .
What is Voir Dire?
During the voir dire process, the judge, the plaintiff’s attorney and the defense’s attorney all have the opportunity to question potential jury members for their suitability to serve on the jury. The law allows the judge and/or the attorneys to excuse a prospective juror from serving for various reasons. If a lawyer wants to have a juror excused he must use a “challenge.” Challenges can be for “cause” or “peremptory.”
Questioning jurors is meant to reveal different causes that may make a juror unqualified, such as a connection to the plaintiff or the defendant, or mental incapacity. Under California law, a juror who exhibits actual or implied bias, can also be removed for cause. If a potential juror has a specific reason why he or she cannot serve on a jury, that juror can also be excused for cause.
Other than for specific disqualifying causes, attorneys can have a juror excused from the panel without giving a specific reason. This is called a peremptory challenge. Lawyers do not have to explain why they use a peremptory challenge, although it is normally for strategic reasons. California law prohibits using peremptory challenges to disqualify jurors from serving on the basis of race, gender, sex, national origin, religion, or related traits.
California’s voir dire process is outlined in the Trial Jury Management and Selection Act, found in Civil Code Sections 190 through 237. The relevant code sections establish different guidelines for criminal versus civil cases. In criminal cases, the only purpose of voir dire is to determine if jurors should be excused for cause. In civil cases, attorneys can use the voir dire process both to determine if jurors should be excused for cause as well as to determine if they want to use one of their peremptory challenges.
In most civil cases, the plaintiff and the defendant each have six peremptory challenges. This means they can remove six potential candidates each from the jury without justification. Both sides may be given more peremptory challenges if the interest of justice requires it. As many jury members as necessary can be removed for cause.
An experienced Long Beach injury lawyer understands how to make good use of the voir dire process to try to help ensure a jury is chosen that can understand the plaintiff’s case and that is likely to be more sympathetic to the plaintiff.
Getting Help from a Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
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I have extensive experience trying personal injury cases. I know how to choose the jury that will give my clients the best opportunity to prove the case against a defendant. I am serious about helping clients get the compensation they deserve.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. You are under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover damages for your injuries.
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