Jury trials are an important part of our democratic society. Thomas Jefferson once stated, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
While many jurors are reluctant to serve on a jury because of the significant time commitment, juries are a vital part of both civil and criminal trials. The combination of a panel of your peers and a judge who understands and upholds the law helps ensure that the rights and liberties of those involved in court process are upheld.
While jury trials are used more often in the criminal context, they are just as important in civil law as well. This is particularly true for personal injury cases. Even if your personal injury case never makes it to trial, the jury is something that your attorney and the other side should be considering throughout your case.
Your Right to a Jury Trial in a Personal Injury Case
In virtually every state and federal court, you have a constitutional right to a jury trial in civil cases where you are seeking money damages. The Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permits juries in cases that involve “common law.” Because most personal injury cases are based on tort law, they are included in the definition of “common law.” That means that if either party involved in your case (you or the opposing party) properly request a jury trial, then you will usually receive it. There are, of course, some exceptions to this general rule.
A jury is made up of members of your community who have no connection to the issues in your case or the parties involved. They are supposed to be unbiased finders of fact who will listen to the evidence presented and issue a decision. They will provide this decision based on the law as submitted to them by the judge and fair standards.
The Jury and Personal Injury Damages
You have the option to determine whether to use just a judge or a judge and a jury in your personal injury case. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options. In cases where the damages are very subjective, such as those that involve physical or emotional costs, having a jury may be a good idea.
Juries are made up of a variety of people who have different experiences and viewpoints. They will be able to determine whether damages are appropriate and how much you should be compensated without the bias of past experiences that judges may have. Juries rarely have a “range” of costs in mind for a particular case, but a judge often does. Instead, juries award damages in a way that is considered acceptable in the community as a whole.
If you have a case that has affected you and your family dramatically, you have the opportunity to tell your story to members of the community. You simply cannot appeal to the community in this fashion in any other context.