What Happens If A Personal Injury Case Goes To Trial?

Personal injury cases arise when an individual has suffered physical, psychological, or emotional injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence or deliberate actions, such as a car accident, medical malpractice, or slip and fall. If the parties or insurance companies cannot reach a fair settlement through negotiation or mediation, the case may go to trial. Going to trial can be a lengthy, complicated, and stressful process for all parties involved, but it is sometimes the only option to seek justice and compensation for the damages suffered. In this article, we will discuss what happens if a personal injury case goes to trial and what factors may affect the outcome.

Pre-Trial Phase

Before the trial begins, both the plaintiff and the defendant’s attorneys will engage in a pre-trial phase aimed at preparing their cases and disclosing the evidence they intend to present to the jury. This phase may involve the following actions:

Filing and responding to pleadings

The plaintiff initiates the lawsuit by filing a complaint in the court with jurisdiction over the matter. The complaint outlines the facts of the case, the legal basis for the claims, and the monetary relief sought. The defendant then has a limited time to respond to the complaint by filing an answer, which can either admit or deny the allegations and raise defenses.


Both parties may engage in discovery, which is a legal process of requesting and exchanging relevant information and documents. Discovery can include depositions, written interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. The purpose of discovery is to narrow the issues in dispute and avoid surprise or undue prejudice at trial.

Motion practice

Either party may file motions before trial, asking the court to rule on certain legal issues or evidence. For example, a defendant may file a motion to dismiss the case or exclude certain testimony, while the plaintiff may file a motion to admit evidence or compel discovery. The court will hear arguments from both sides and decide on the motions usually before trial.

Jury selection

If the case proceeds to trial, a pool of potential jurors will be selected and brought to the courtroom for voir dire, which is a process of questioning by the attorneys to determine their impartiality and suitability to serve. The parties may use peremptory challenges or challenges for cause to eliminate or excuse certain jurors from the panel.

Trial Phase

The trial phase is the formal presentation of evidence and arguments to a judge or jury, which will then render a verdict based on the legal and factual issues presented. The trial can be divided into several stages:

Opening statements

Each side will make an opening statement to the jury, outlining their version of the facts and the evidence they plan to present. The purpose of the opening statements is to give the jurors an overview of the case and the themes they will be asked to consider.

Direct examination

The plaintiff’s attorney will present their case with direct examination of witnesses, which involves asking them questions to elicit testimony that supports the claims made in the complaint. The witnesses may include the plaintiff, eyewitnesses, experts, and other relevant parties.


After the direct examination, the defendant’s attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, asking questions that challenge the credibility, reliability, or accuracy of their testimony. Cross-examination can be an effective way to impeach the opposing party’s witnesses and weaken their case.

Exhibits and demonstrative evidence

Each side may introduce exhibits and demonstrative evidence, such as photographs, medical records, diagrams, charts, or videos, to illustrate the facts and issues in the case. The evidence needs to be relevant, reliable, and authenticated before it can be admitted into evidence.

Closing arguments

Both parties will make closing arguments to the jury, summarizing the evidence and the law and making persuasive arguments for why the verdict should be in their favor. The closing arguments are often the last chance for the attorneys to sway the jury before they retire to deliberate.

Jury instructions and deliberation

Before the jury starts deliberating, the judge will instruct them on the law applicable to the case and tell them what legal standards and burdens of proof they need to apply in reaching a verdict. Once the jury is sequestered, they will deliberate in private and try to reach a unanimous or majority decision on the issues presented.


When the jury reaches a verdict, they will return to the courtroom and announce it to the judge. The judge will then enter a judgment based on the verdict, which may include the award of damages to the plaintiff.

Post-Trial Phase

After the trial, the parties may have several options, depending on the outcome and the issues involved:


If one party is dissatisfied with the verdict, they may file an appeal to a higher court, arguing that the trial court made errors in its rulings or instructions that prejudiced their case. The appeals process can be lengthy and costly, but it offers a chance to overturn or modify an unfavorable decision.

Execution of judgment

If the plaintiff wins the case and receives a judgment for damages, they may still have to enforce it against the defendant if they refuse to pay voluntarily. This can be done through garnishment, liens, or seizure of assets, but it may require additional legal proceedings and collection efforts.


Going to trial in a personal injury case can be a challenging and complex process that requires strong advocacy, preparation, and evidence. If you are involved in a personal injury case that may go to trial, it is important to have a skilled and experienced attorney by your side who can guide you through the legal maze and protect your rights and interests. Whether you settle or litigate, the ultimate goal of a personal injury case is to compensate the victim for their injuries and losses, and to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

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