What Happens When You Go to Court for a Car Accident?
If you are suing an at-fault driver after being seriously injured in a car accident in Minnesota, you may be wondering what happens when you make it to court.
The first stage of trial is called voir dire, when prospective jurors are asked a series of questions by the attorneys to determine if they will be unbiased. Once the jury is selected, the car accident trial will move to opening statements.
Both parties to the lawsuit will get a chance to make opening statements, to lay out their side of the case, and set the stage for the jury.
Presentation of Evidence
Each side will get a chance to present evidence and call on witnesses to testify. Since the plaintiff (victim) has the “burden of proof,” you will present your side first.
What Evidence Can Be Presented in a Car Accident Case?
To recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages, the evidence you present must convince the jury that the other party “more likely than not” caused your injuries. To do that, your attorney may present a variety of evidence, such as:
- Medical records
- Repair invoices
- Journal entries
- Correspondence with your employer and pay stubs
- Photographs of the car accident scene
- Witness interviews
- Your testimony
- Expert testimony, such as your treating physician or accident reconstructionists
- Accident reports
- Traffic violations (if applicable)
It is important to know that certain evidence can be prevented from being introduced during trial, including police reports and determinations of fault by insurance companies, which are generally considered hearsay.
The defendant’s (individual being sued) lawyer can object to evidence and is given a chance to cross-examine you or your witnesses before presenting their side.
The jury will deliberate behind closed doors to decide:
- Who is liable or at fault? The jury must return a unanimous verdict—that is, all 12 must be in agreement.
- How much are the damages worth? With the information at hand, the jury adds up how much the victim may need to pay for medical bills, property damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Minnesota’s modified rule of comparative negligence will come into play. You will still be able to recover damages if you are partially at fault, as long as you are 50% or less to blame. For example, if the jury decides you should be awarded $100,000 in damages for personal injury but are found 20% at fault, you will only receive 80% of your awarded compensation or $80,000.
Do All Car Accidents Go To Court?
Very few car accident cases actually go to court, as most settle before trial. Insurance companies often like to settle out of court because of unknown factors and the unpredictable nature of jury trials. When a car accident case does make it to court, it is typically because the two parties do not agree that the plaintiff was truly injured, disagree on fault, or the amount of compensation being sought.