Jury trials are a constitutional right in America. For many personal injury cases, a jury trial is practically automatic. Since personal injury cases are civil in nature and deal with state law, it will be a state’s constitution that will determine the laws concerning jury trials. Each state is different so it is best to consult with local counsel for jury information. In Illinois, civil trials can have juries of six or twelve and they must be unanimous. A civil case may be brought within different divisions of a state court depending on the dollar amount demanded.
In personal injury cases, it is unheard of to have a bench trial, or a trial without a jury. Attorneys do not want to leave the entire case to one person. Although it seems counter intuitive, attorneys would much rather gamble on trying to convince twelve people on a jury rather than one judge. Since verdicts need to be unanimous, if a jury can’t agree then at least attorneys will get another shot at a trial. There is also a belief that if the majority of people on a jury are leaning one way, they can persuade the minority holdouts. Also, since jurors are everyday people with jobs, they will agree to compromise with a verdict with which all can agree in order to get back to their lives. This does not mean there is a belief that jurors don’t care about their duty. The best thing about having a case decided by a jury is that jurors can come up with practical verdicts. Attorneys can learn from such verdicts and tailor their cases to fit the sentiment of the everyday person.
As a plaintiff or defendant, remember that handling a jury is a lot of work. For instance, a jury is constantly sizing up the parties, the attorneys, and the witnesses. Facial expressions, posture, clothing, and manner of speech will all be scrutinized. It is important for parties to prepare to be on display for the duration of the trial.
Juries are also a lot of work for attorneys. Juries need to be selected and it takes skill to adequately select a jury within the bounds of the law. Also there are considerations like jury instructions, and there is a lot of contention over how to instruct juries. Additionally, an attorney needs to prepare to be comfortable in front of a jury. Some attorneys may not have the personality to bond with a jury.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.