How Do Car Accident Trials Work in North Carolina

December 1, 2015 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
How Do Car Accident Trials Work in North Carolina

What Happens During a Car Accident Trial in North Carolina?

The vast majority of North Carolina car accident claims reach a resolution long before a jury verdict — in fact, according to recent research, over 90 percent of personal injury cases are resolved without going to trial. Often, the parties involved may agree to a settlement before a lawsuit is even filed in court. Even if you do file a lawsuit, many cases are resolved through out-of-court negotiations before a trial starts. Some may even settle “on the courthouse steps” on the eve of trial or even during the litigation process. However, there are some situations in which an insurance company or other defendant simply refuses to agree to a fair settlement — and in these cases, going to trial may be necessary to get the justice and compensation you deserve.

In those cases, you need a North Carolina car accident lawyer who is prepared to advocate for you in court to make sure justice is done. Below, we discuss the process of a car accident trial and how to prepare.

IMPORTANT: If you've been injured in a car accident in NC, call our experienced trial attorneys for a free consultation. We can advise you on your claim and help ensure you get the justice and compensation you deserve. The consultation is FREE and there is no obligation. Please call 1-800-525-7111 today or complete the fast and easy form below.

Who Must Attend a Trial Involving Car Accident Injury Claims in North Carolina?

Judges preside over trials involving car accidents in North Carolina. In many cases filed in state Superior Court, there will also be a jury made up of 12 citizens from that county (cases in federal court will have 12 jurors too). Other court personnel will also be present, such as a court reporter and support staff. Your NC car accident lawyer as well as legal counsel for the defendant will also be in the courtroom.

"Do I Have to Attend My Car Accident Trial in North Carolina?"

You will most likely be required to attend an auto accident trial if you are the plaintiff. In general, even though your attorney will serve as your representative, your attendance will be required in most situations. In most cases, you may need to testify about your car accident injuries or experience of the auto accident. We will certainly prepare you for testifying in these circumstances.

In most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay any jury verdict in your case, not the driver himself or herself. As a result, the insurance company will send its attorneys to protect its interests by representing the defendant. There are some cases in which more than one driver was at fault, or another party was to blame for the car crash — for example, in a case involving an automotive defect or a dangerous road condition. These defendants would have their own counsel or representation from an attorney who represents their insurer.

Additionally, a variety of witnesses — both eyewitnesses and expert witnesses — may provide testimony over the course of the trial. The law enforcement officers who responded to the accident call may also appear. In addition, NC courtrooms are generally open to the public.

"What Should I Wear to the Trial?"

Tradition and decorum still have great importance in the courtroom. That means it is a good idea to dress professionally and respectfully. The attorneys and court personnel will typically wear business attire — suits, conservative dresses or skirts, and coats and ties, for example. You should dress similarly. Some lawyers advise their clients to dress as if they were going to church or a funeral.

While “dressing up” is advisable, you should avoid flashy clothes like cocktail dresses, tuxedos, or other evening wear. In any event, avoid revealing clothing such as shorts, short skirts, cutoff jeans, sleeveless shirts, and similar attire. Most judges prohibit witnesses and observers from entering the courtroom in shorts.

Who Determines Fault and Compensation in the Trial?

Jury Trials

Most car accident claims that proceed to the courtroom are jury trials. This means the jury will reach a verdict on the question or questions put before it. The judge in a jury trial acts as a type of referee, deciding questions of law. For example, the judge may determine whether evidence is admissible and rule on objections and motions made by the attorneys.

The jury is considered the “finder of fact” in trials involving car accidents, and so determines both who was at fault and the amount of compensation owed (if any). The jury will base these decisions on the evidence and testimony presented at trial. It is important to remember that the trial court’s decisions are subject to appeal, so you may not get compensation right away. However, after you win a trial, the insurance company may be more likely to agree to a fair settlement while an appeal is pending.

Bench Trials

The courts may waive trial by jury in certain circumstances, resulting in a bench trial instead. In such a case, the judge decides both the legal questions as well as the factual questions, rendering a verdict without input from a jury. The attorneys at Riddle and Brantley have successfully recovered fair verdicts in many bench trials regarding car wrecks (see disclaimer below).

"How Long Will My Car Accident Trial Last?"

There is no standard length for motor vehicle accident trials in NC. Several factors may affect the duration of the trial, including:

  • Accident complexity
  • Extent and severity of injuries
  • Number of witnesses called to testify
  • Number of doctors called to testify
  • Format of testimony (in-person or video)
  • Amount of evidence to be reviewed

"How Long Will It Take for a Jury to Reach a Verdict?"

In a jury trial, jurors may reach a decision very quickly or their deliberations may drag on for an extended period. Generally speaking, part of the judge’s role is to keep the process moving forward without undue delay. However, some car crash cases can last for several days or even longer. In bench trials, a judge may make a prompt ruling from the bench, or may take time to deliberate before issuing a verdict.

Injured in a North Carolina Car Accident?

Most car accident cases settle before a judge and/or jury ever get involved. However, if your case reaches the courtroom, you need a qualified North Carolina car accident lawyer with trial experience. At Riddle & Brantley, our attorneys prepare each case as if it will go to trial. So if filing a lawsuit is in your best interest, we are fully prepared to represent you in court.

Our trial attorneys have been recognized by many prestigious organizations and awards, including:

  • The National Trial Lawyers Top 100
  • Super Lawyers
  • The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40
  • Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
  • The Litigator Award
  • The National Association of Distinguished Counsel
  • Super Lawyers "Rising Star"

For specific answers to your individual questions, or to discuss your car accident claim, fill out our online contact form or call us now for a free review and consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and have 10 office locations in NC to serve you (in-person appointments in certain locations by appointment only). Many of our staff members are also bilingual to better serve the Spanish-speaking community.

Don't wait — the longer you wait to talk with an attorney, the harder it may be to prove your case and get you the compensation you need and deserve. Please call 1-800-525-7111 today and let's review your claim. Justice Counts and we would love to help however we can.