Trial Process (Part 1 ) – Jury Selection

Derek Reams, a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer with McCue, Reams and Associates recently completed a four part video series on some of the finer parts of the civil trial process here in the state of Florida. The following are some excerpts from Part 1 – Jury Selection.
First step in the trial process is what’s called the jury selection, more formally known as “voir dire”.
In this step of the trial process, the judge and the attorneys for all of the parties are entitled to ask perspective jurors various questions. Things like, have they been in a prior car accident, made a claim for personal injuries or know someone that has been injured in a motor vehicle accident of any kind. This information is important to us and to you because we want the best jury to get the best possible result for you during the trial of your case.
During this process, the judge generally starts by asking the jury as a group, some basic background qualifications such as, are they Florida residents, residents of the particular county that we’re trying the case in, have they been involved in any formal legal proceedings such as bankruptcy, foreclosure for other personal injury cases things like that. This could affect the jury’s ability to be fair and impartial which is why the judge asked these questions.
Once the judge has finished asking questions, the questioning is turned over to the attorneys for the respective parties. The plaintiff which is the side that has filed the lawsuit asks questions next. Once the plaintiff is done, the questioning is then turned over to the defense attorney.
In a personal injury case, a variety of questions are asked by both the plaintiff’s attorney and the defense attorney. Certain information such as, has the perspective juror ever been involved in a motor vehicle accident, a medical malpractice claim, have any of those claims been filed against them or most importantly what are their feelings and biases about being involved in those types of claims in the past.
As attorneys, we of course are looking for the prospective jurors who would be most fair and impartial in any given case. Obviously, the defense attorney is looking for the same type of juror, so these questions are extremely important once we’re selecting the jury during the trial of any case.
Other information we may be looking for during the jury selection process are things like, do they have any personal conflicts such as work, family, doctor’s appointments that may prevent them from sitting during the course of your trial. Most personal injury cases last an average of three days, some good last several weeks. So, it’s important to know which jurors are going to be able to listen and provide a fair and impartial decision at the conclusion of your trial.
Once each side has finished asking the prospective jurors questions, we then had a meeting with the judge to select the panel for that particular case. Here in Florida, the jury consists of six people and usually one or two alternate jurors. This process includes what are called “peremptory challenges” and “challenges for cause” that the judge is asked to make decisions on.
For cause challenges are simply challenges where a juror has said something or made a comment during the questioning process they clearly shows he or she cannot be fair and impartial in this particular case. Generally, each side has three peremptory challenges and those challenges can be used for any reason except to strike a potential juror for race, religion, or gender.
Once the for cause challenges are made and the peremptory challenges have been used, the judge then seats these people as the jury panel for your trial and that’s when the trial itself begins.
If you would like to view this podcast or any of the other free podcasts we have produced regarding personal injury law and your rights you can visit us on iTunes.
The next segment of Attorney Reams’ discussion of the trial process centers on your case at trial.
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