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The basic steps of a personal injury trial

Your life changed forever at the moment the other vehicle crashed into yours. If you suffered catastrophic injuries, you may have spent weeks or months in the hospital, undergone numerous surgical procedures, and met with multiple doctors and specialists. That may only be the beginning of your recovery if your future quality of life depends on additional surgeries, therapies and medication.

Insurance only covers so much, and even that may be a struggle to obtain. You have the option of seeking damages through a personal injury claim in Georgia civil court. This prospect may be almost as intimidating as what you have already gone through, but it may help to understand the steps of a personal injury trial.

What to expect

If you are bringing a case against the driver of the other vehicle, you are the plaintiff, and the other driver is the defendant. It will be your job to offer the judge or jury convincing evidence that the defendant is responsible for your injuries, pain and suffering. Your attorney will likely have spent a great deal of time gathering that evidence long before the trial begins. Once the jury is chosen by both sides, the opening statements will begin.

In opening statements, your attorney will explain to the judge or jury how your side intends to prove your case. The defendant's attorney will make a similar opening statement and explain how he or she intends to refute your evidence. The case will proceed in general with these steps:

  • Eyewitnesses and expert witnesses will take oaths to tell the truth, and each attorney will have a chance to ask them questions.
  • Your side will call witnesses to the stand first, then the defense will have the opportunity to question its own witnesses that your attorney can cross-examine.
  • After both sides have offered evidence and questioned the witnesses, the attorneys will give their closing statements, tying together the evidence they have presented.
  • The judge will then remind the jury of the legal standards by which they will weigh the evidence.
  • The jury will deliberate until it reaches a decision, which the judge will announce to the court.

A personal injury trial is complex and difficult. Most injury cases settle without going to court, but you want an attorney who is willing to fight for your rights and is prepared to take your case to trial if that is your best opportunity for obtaining the compensation you deserve.

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