In this twelve-part blog series, personal injury lawyers Bree Hankins and Adrienne Staley discuss important steps to follow after a motor vehicle accident and what you need to know about making a personal injury claim. Part 12 focuses on what happens if we have to go to trial.
Part 12: What if we can’t settle my claim and we have to go to trial?
While the team a Pihl Law Corp will always do their best to achieve a fair settlement on our client’s behalf, sometimes cases need to go to trial in order to make sure our client gets the right level of compensation for their injuries. But do not worry, we are experienced trial lawyers and we are present with our clients every step of the way to make sure that they feel prepared and supported during a trial.
Most people have not had to spend any time at a Courthouse before and are intimidated by the thought of being there. Unlike lawyers, some people will go their entire lives without ever having to step foot in a courtroom. Trial lawyers, like us, spend a lot of time in the Courthouse and are comfortable with the procedures and the process. Our experience helps us educate you in advance of a trial so that when you are in that courtroom for the first time, you are not as intimidated as you might have been.
Clients may not be overtly aware of it, but we start preparing a client’s case for trial from the moment we start acting for them. Each of the previous steps that we have outlined in our Blog have been leading up to the trial. The medical experts we send our clients to provide us with expert opinions that we intend to introduce at trial. The medical records we have gathered along the way will help us prepare our questions for the various witnesses, including our clients.
The weeks leading up to a trial are often full of energy as we put together our arguments, questions and start to prepare the witnesses. One of biggest component of this preparation is preparing our clients to testify. We will spend many hours with our clients helping them become more comfortable with answering questions and telling their story. We also explain how the trial will proceed, what witnesses we will be calling and what the ICBC lawyer will likely ask questions about.
On the first day of trial, we will give what is called an “Opening Statement” to the presiding Judge. If the Judge is a male, he is referred to as “My Lord” or “His Lordship.” If the Judge is a female, she is refereed to as “My Lady” or “Her Ladyship.’ The Opening Statement is summary of the evidence we expect to present to the court and the witnesses that we expect will give testimony. You also give the Judge a bit of an overview as to the scheduling of the witnesses so that his Lordship or her Ladyship knows what to anticipate as the trial unfolds.
After the opening statement, the first witness is called. In the vast majority of the cases the first witness will be our client, the person who was injured in the accident. We then ask questions of our client under direct examination. A direct examination involves open ended questions that allow the witness to tell their story without interference. When the direct examination is over, the lawyer for ICBC then has the opportunity to cross examine the witness. A cross examination usually involves short, closed, yes or no questions that are designed to get specific points across.
After the injured person testified, the supporting witnesses, such as spouses, friends, treating physicians and experts will each give their testimony. Once all of the witnesses have testified on our client’s behalf, the clients case is rested and the lawyer for ICBC has the opportunity to call their witnesses. They may have witnesses who have observed our client participating in an activity or they may have experts of their own who examined our client and provided an opinion.
Once all the witnesses have concluded their testimony, the two lawyers will give their final arguments. This is where we marshal all of the evidence that was presented and use that evidence to persuade the Judge with respect to the amount of compensation we submit should be awarded to our client. The ICBC lawyer also has the same opportunity.
The Judge will hear the arguments and then reserve judgment. This means the Judge will take some time to consider the arguments and evidence, weigh the evidence, and make a finding as to what compensation is appropriate. In most cases, the Judge will issue a written decision that sets out their analysis and findings. Unless, ICBC intends to appeal the judgement (which is rare) after the judgment is issued, ICBC will pay out the amount ordered and the matter will be concluded.
We hope you found our blog series to be useful and informative. If you have any questions about your personal injury claim, contact us to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. To learn more, continue reading about our personal injury services here.The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.