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. 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. 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.
At Riddle & Brantley, our Raleigh car accident lawyers know that justice counts. That is the reason why we prepare each case as if it were going to trial. Doing so puts us in a strong position to secure full and fair compensation for our clients at the negotiation table. In most car crash cases, we are able to reach a successful resolution of our clients’ claims without ever setting foot in the courtroom. If you suffered car accident injuries in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Jacksonville or elsewhere in North Carolina, our personal injury attorneys can answer your questions and concerns about the process of a car accident lawsuit.
Who is Present at a Car Accident Trial 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 North Carolina car accident lawyer as well as legal counsel for the defendant will also be in the courtroom.
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, North Carolina’s courtrooms are generally open to the public.
What Should I Wear to a Car Accident 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 the like. Most judges prohibit witnesses and observers from entering the courtroom in shorts.
Who Determines Fault and Compensation in a Car Accident Case?
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 fact-finder 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.
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 bench trials regarding car wrecks.
How Long Will My Car Accident Trial Last?
There is no standard length for motor vehicle accident trials in North Carolina. Several factors may affect the duration of the trial. How complex is the matter? What car accident injuries resulted from the crash? How many witnesses will testify? How many doctors will testify and will they testify by recorded video or in person? What evidence must be reviewed? How long does it take for the 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.
Hurt in a Crash? Call a North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Most car accident cases settle before a judge and jury ever hears about it. 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.
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 four office locations in North Carolina to serve you. Many of our staff members are also bilingual to better serve the Spanish-speaking community.