Elements of a DC Personal Injury Trial

Anyone looking to bring a personal injury case in DC should be aware of some of the specific elements of a standard personal injury trial in the District of Columbia. An experienced personal injury attorney can help to clarify the elements of a trial and help their client to prepare for these different aspects of their case.

Length of Personal Injury Trials in DC

A personal injury trial can take a few days to complete. The trial can vary in length depending upon the nature of the evidence to be presented, the number of witnesses required, and any number of factors that go into a jury trial in the District of Columbia. Another issue that can affect the length of time to complete a jury trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is the availability of jurors. Obtaining the proper number of jurors to conduct the voir dire process is beyond the parties’ control. The parties are at the mercy of the court to call for prospective jurors and work through the voir dire process.

Parties Involved

By law, trials are not limited in terms of the number of plaintiffs or defendants. However, the court is always mindful of conflicts of interest or conflicting testimony that may be given in any one case. A person’s request to have a trial separate and apart from any other parties is also weighed against the use of judicial resources.

Important Elements for Litigators

A personal injury attorney should understanding the issues that are likely to appear, how the case plays out in front of the jury, and prepare for all of the potential unknown scenarios that may surface. All of this preparation should take place well in advance.

In most cases, there is an issue or two that an attorney knows will be a key factor during the course of litigation. There may be a key piece of evidence that is subject to an objection. A good litigation attorney knows this in advance and is prepared to present any arguments either for or against excluding this piece of evidence. These issues depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. When an issue arises, it is up to the attorney to note the objection and argue the point to the court. Once the court renders its decision, this issue may be taken up for appeal.

The issue is also considered during the requested jury instructions process. Sometimes, the parties may request jury instructions that are no longer appropriate once the court makes a determination on the issue. It is important to preserve the record concerning the jury instructions so that if there is some perceived impropriety, the issue can be preserved for appeal.

Jury v. Bench Trials

Not all trials are jury trials. In the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, there is a small claims conciliation branch that allows for the recovery of $5,000 or less. All civil trials handled in the small claims branch are non-jury trials. When a plaintiff files their complaint. They are required to fill out an intake form in which they are required to select whether they wish to have a trial by jury. A party must elect a trial by jury in order to have a jury trial. Oftentimes, the jury trial is recommended by the attorney for any number of factors that are particular to that individual case. However, if a person files a complaint and does not elect a jury trial, they have waived that right and the case proceeds to a bench trial.