While we always try to resolve cases out of court whenever possible to ensure our clients get the settlements they need quickly, we do not believe in accepting settlements that are too small to fully compensate our clients, either. So, when negotiation fails or won’t work on a significant case, we take the matter to court.
Personal injury cases are decided by juries just like criminal cases are, which means the jury will control how much compensation you receive. And because juries are made up of people who are usually not familiar with what injury victims go through after an accident, they may have pre-formed opinions that could affect how they view your case.
That’s why the jury selection process exists: your lawyer will have a chance to speak with the potential jurors and dismiss any that may have an unfair bias against you before the trial even starts.
What Happens During Jury Selection?
Jury selection is arguably the most important part of any trial. You may hear your lawyer refer to this process as “voir dire.”
Potential jurors are selected at random from the eligible citizens in the county where the trial is taking place and asked to show up at the courthouse for voir dire. Not everyone who is summoned to jury duty will actually serve on a jury – voir dire is the process that determines who does.
During voir dire, the attorneys for both sides will get a chance to ask the jurors questions about the case and themselves. These questions are to determine if the jurors have any beliefs, prejudices, or relationships with any party involved with the case. Translated loosely from French, voir dire means “to speak the truth,” since potential jurors are required to answer all questions truthfully.
Whenever a potential juror is struck from the list and told to leave, this is called a “challenge.”
“Challenges for cause” are when the lawyer argues successfully to the judge that a juror has shown a bias. Lawyers can move to strike as many jurors “for cause” as they deem appropriate, but they need to explain to the judge why they think that juror is biased and the judge has to agree.
Attorneys can also strike a juror for no reason whatsoever. This is called a “peremptory challenge.” Each attorney can only do this a limited number of times per trial, so attorneys have to decide which jurors they want to dismiss carefully.
At the end of voir dire, you will end up with either six or 12 jurors who will sit on your jury. In this way, jury selection isn’t picking the jury, it is picking who will not sit on the jury.
What Type of Questions Are Asked in Jury Selection?
Because questions during voir dire are supposed to root out potential biases, typical questions include:
- Have you or any member of your family ever worked for an insurance company?
- Have you or any member of your family ever filed a personal injury claim?
- Do you personally know any of the parties involved in this lawsuit?
Potential jurors who work in the insurance industry, for example, may be more likely to side with the insurance company, while people who have also suffered accidents may be more likely to side with the accident victim.
Similar questions will also be asked depending on the type of accident. For example, if the injury was caused by a fall in a restaurant, jurors may be asked if they’ve ever worked in a restaurant.
Jurors may also be asked questions about their personal lives and beliefs. For example, jurors with children will be more likely to be biased in cases where children were injured, or jurors who like to watch legal dramas on television may be biased to whichever role their favorite character plays, whether that’s representing the plaintiff or the defense.
A good trial injury lawyer has to know how to talk to jurors – a juror may end up being biased against you for no reason other than they think your lawyer was rude or unfriendly during voir dire! And that is something you never want to happen.
We Know How to Question Jurors
Jury selection is arguably the most important part of any case that goes to trial, so don’t leave it to chance. Although most claims do settle out of court, it’s always smart to prepare as though yours will be decided by a jury of 12 strangers. When that happens, Gary Bruce and his team are happy to answer any other question you may have about the process.