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Settling Your Case Before Trial
Once depositions have been taken, the lawyers for both sides will be aware of what is likely to be presented at trial. There are usually no more surprises at that point. If the plaintiff still has a strong case, it is not unusual for the either of the parties to attempt settlement. This can be accomplished a number of different ways. An offer may be set forth by letter. The parties may arrange a settlement conference or phone call, in which they will confer about the merits of the case. More recently, many litigants have begun settling personal injury cases through mediation. Mediation is a process that allows the parties to spend a day in settlement negotiations with a trained, professional mediator, someone experienced in the art of negotiating difficult types of disputes. Evidence will be examined, arguments will be made, and each side will "test" their position in a neutral environment, in a way that cannot be used against either side at trial. Good mediators are able to resolve nine out of ten cases in mediation, which is why judges are now ordering parties to mediation before setting cases for trial.
Prepping for Trial
Prior to trial, the attorney will review your deposition testimony with you, and work on your trial presentation. He will ask
you the questions that you will be asked at trial. And more importantly, he will go over what the insurance lawyer is liable to ask
you on cross-examination. It is the job of the defense lawyer to "trip you up," or to discredit you through questioning. Your
lawyer should adequately prepare you, so that your testimony is solid and credible. This can only be done through practice.
Your lawyer will also spend dozens, if not hundreds, of hours preparing for the trial of your case. This may include hiring and preparing experts, reviewing extensive medical records and other reports, and consulting with non-testifying experts about the best way to explain your case at trial. In wrongful death cases, there may be meetings with the family of the decedent. The client will work hand in hand with the lawyer, and his staff, to orchestrate a strategy to maximize the weeks leading up to the trial, in such a way that the client has the greatest chance of success.
The Trial Process
A civil jury trial is one of the greatest tools that a citizen may use to avail themselves of justice through our American
legal system. The right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The way a trial operates is almost completely governed by formal rules - the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, and the jury instructions prepared by the attorneys prior to the trial. It is carefully orchestrated to ensure that both sides are given a fair chance to be heard.
The first part of the trial is jury selection, which is critical to ensure a jury composed of unbiased jurors.
Next, the parties give opening statements, telling the jurors what they are likely to see introduced as evidence during the trial.
The Plaintiff then presents its witnesses and evidence, in what is known as Plaintiff's "case-in-chief."
After the Plaintiff's case, the Defendant usually makes motions outside the presence of the jury.
The Defense then presents their case-in-chief.
Once both sides are fully heard, the Plaintiff's counsel, and then Defendant's counsel, make closing argument to the jury, after which the jury is charged with ruling on the case. The jury make their decisions by carefully reviewing written jury instructions which the court approved prior to the juryreceiving them.
There is no limit to the amount of time a jury can take in order to make a decision. The Court has several tools at its disposal to encourage the jury to render a verdict. In an Arkansas civil case for negligence, at least nine of the twelve jury members must side together for it to constitute a verdict.