What You Need to Know to Successfully Litigate a Jury Trial

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Successfully presenting a personal injury case to a jury can be a daunting undertaking.  In this discussion, you will find some hints regarding ways to make the experience more successful for you and your client.  One of the most important things you should always remember is "be yourself."  The moment you begin trying to emulate someone else or to present a style that does not come naturally to you, the jury will realize it and you risk losing credibility with them.  This can be fatal to a personal injury case, or any type of jury trial for that matter. 


The willingness of judges in Virginia to allow you a free reign in voir dire varies widely from one judge to another.  The value of voir dire cannot be underestimated.  Accordingly, every effort should be made to convince your trial judge that extended voir dire is in everyone's best interest.

Even with a judge who is severely limited in his willingness to let you interrogate jurors before exercising your preemptory strikes, two goals must be met.  First, it is imperative for the plaintiff's lawyer to identify who the "tort reformers" are on the panel.  If they are allowed to sit on the jury, they will poison the entire process from the plaintiff's perspective.

We begin the search for these individuals by asking the members of the panel if they believe there are too many frivolous lawsuits being filed in America today.  This question is incredibly revealing and productive and certainly should be asked in every case.  Depending upon who the trial judge is, reasonable follow-up to this question is also very important.

The second goal in voir dire is to begin conditioning the jury for your case.  One of the most important and overlooked tools available to the plaintiff's bar is the burden of proof in a civil case.  As we all know, a "preponderance of the evidence" simply means "more likely than not."  If a fact is proven to a level of 51%, then the plaintiff's burden of proof has been met.

It is imperative that this legal concept be carefully explained to the panel and, if possible, it is likewise imperative that an agreement be extracted from each panel member to approve of that concept and to follow it during jury deliberations.  In addition, if allowed to do so by the trial court, the weaknesses in each respective party's case should be revealed to the panel and attempts should be made to have each panel member agree that this weakness will not overly influence his or her decision making.