Personal Injury Trials in Maryland
When someone brings a personal injury claim in Maryland they may end up taking that claim to court and trial. With the help of a Maryland personal injury lawyer, an individual can understand and navigate the trial process for personal injury trials in Maryland.
The legal time required to conduct a personal injury trial in Maryland depends upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. The number of parties and attorneys involved, the nature and/or type of evidence and if the claim must be proven can all affect the length of the trial. Typically, most personal injury jury trials conducted in a circuit court last approximately two days.
Process of a Trial
Personal injury trials in Maryland can involve more than one plaintiff and defendant. Multiple parties involved in a single case can be a factor in determining how long it will take for a civil trial to proceed. Each trial can have its own unique process. A trial typically consists of multiple steps, first being the jury selection process, second being the opening statements and questioning process, and third being the closing statements.
Jury Selection Process
The jury selection process in Maryland is fairly limited because of the way the court system handles the process. The jury pool consists of a random selection of Maryland residents within the county where the case is being tried pursuant to their driving record and voter registration cards. It is not a statewide selection.
Once the jury pool is sent to the courtroom, the court and the attorneys go through the jury selection process. Typically, this is done through a submission of questions by both sides prior to the beginning of trial.
There are usually about 20 to 30 questions in total that the court will ask the jury pool. If a juror responds to a question then typically the juror is called to the bench in order to discuss his or her answer more specifically with the attorneys and judge. The jury selection process can take an hour or two and sometimes longer on the first day of trial.
Opening Statements and Questioning
Typically, the second step of the trial, after jury selection, consists of opening statements. The plaintiff’s counsel will go first, followed by defense counsel. The plaintiff, who is bringing the claim, always goes first because that person has the burden of proof. Once opening statements are complete, the substance of the case begins.
The plaintiff will go first in calling his or her first witness and any additional expert witnesses in the prosecution of the claim. When a witness is called, there is a multiple questioning session. First with direct examination and then by cross examination by opposing counsel. Once the plaintiff’s case is complete, it is time for the defense to present their case.
Cross-Examination and Closing Statements
The defense can present their case solely through the cross examination of the plaintiff’s witnesses or through presentation of their own independent witnesses. If the defense presents a witness then the plaintiff’s counsel has the opportunity to cross examine the witness once the defense counsel is finished.
Once the defense has concluded their case, the closing statements will occur. The plaintiff’s counsel will go first in presenting a closing statement then the defendant’s counsel. The plaintiff’s counsel is then typically allowed a final rebuttal argument.
In any trial, there is usually an issue which both parties are acutely aware of, whether it is an issue regarding a witness or certain types of evidence. Whenever a trial is being conducted, an attorney will pay attention to how a particular issue is portrayed.
If the court were to rule against counsel on this issue, counsel must preserve the record and present it to the ultimate verdict without favoring their client so that an appeal can be made based on the perceived error by the trial court.
Jury or Bench Trials
All trials are not jury trials. Trials that are conducted in the district court of Maryland are bench trials and do not have juries. District court is of limited jurisdiction with a maximum recovery of $30,000.00.
District court also has limited discovery, however, a benefit is that the court is able to accommodate many more district court trials on its daily docket and may move significantly faster than circuit court cases.
Jury trials are conducted in the circuit court. Typically, all of the cases that are handled in a circuit court are jury trials. A case can be removed from the district court to circuit court if the claim exceeds $15,000 but is less than $30,000. This can be done by the defense during elections for a jury trial. It is afforded to the defendant by operation of law.