It is not possible to determine an exact answer to this question since there are so many variables that affect when your case will go to trial after litigation begins. These factors can include:
- The number of cases awaiting trial in your jurisdiction.
- The number of judges available for the trials waiting.
- The amount of time it takes for discovery on both sides to be completed.
- Other possible factors.
Your St. George attorney will help you to ascertain an approximate guess about when your case will reach trial. In some cases and jurisdictions, it takes a matter of months to reach your trial date, but in others it can be several years to get to trial after your lawsuit is filed.
How much notice will I get before the trial?
In most cases you will get plenty of notice to make preparations with your attorney before your trial. But in some jurisdictions, there may be several “false alarms” that cause you to prepare for the trial many times before your trial really occurs. Your attorney will explain this process to you, but sometimes the court will set a number of cases for trial, but only a small percentage of those are actually reached to be heard.
What happens in a trial?
In simple cases, the trial typically follows a particular format. Depending on the jurisdiction, your trial will generally follow this pattern, with some variations:
- The trial will begin with the judge calling all participants into the courtroom, including you, the defendant, the attorneys, and jurors.
- There will be a jury selection process. In some jurisdictions, the attorneys for each side will ask the prospective jurors questions in order to select the jury. These questions will determine whether there is any existing bias among the prospective jurors that will affect the case.
- The final jury selection is similar to a lottery. But initially, jurors may be excluded from the final selection for a number of reasons at the judge and attorneys’ discretion.
- Once the jury selection takes place and 6-8 people are chosen for the case, the attorneys for each side will make opening statements. These statements summarize the case briefly from each point of view. These allow the jury to have an idea of the main points of the case. These statements take approximately 30 minutes or less to deliver.
- After each opening statement, your attorney will make your case for the court. You and other witness will be called to testify on the witness stand. The witnesses might include your employer, family members, doctor, and any witnesses to the incident. This is called direct examination.
- After your St. George attorney completes direct examination of each witness, the defense attorney will be allowed to cross-examine each witness as well. Any witness, including you, may be examined on the witness stand by the attorney for the defendant.
- There will be one more opportunity after the cross-examination for your lawyer to ask a few more questions of any witnesses, in a brief process called re-direct examination.
- This will conclude the presentation of your case by your attorney. At this point, the defense attorney will present the case of the defendant. He or she will call witnesses for their side. Your attorney will also cross-examine these witnesses, in a similar process to that above.
- After both sides of the case have been presented by both of the lawyers, meaning all evidence and questioning is concluded, there will be closing arguments. In this process, the attorneys will make a summary and final statement of their respective side of the case for the jury. Each lawyer will ask for the verdict they desire. Your attorney will give his or her closing statement first, and then the defense attorney will follow. Sometimes your attorney may be allowed a short rebuttal period after the closing statement from the defense.
- At this point, the judge will give instructions to the jury regarding the law applicable to the case. This instruction can take an hour or sometimes more, and is dependent on the judge. These instructions from the judge are the final statements that the jury hears before deliberation, and so the judge is prohibited by law from influencing the jury with his statement in one way or the other.
- After the instructions from the judge, the jury will deliberate and discuss your case in detail in a closed room. This could take several hours. It just depends on the complexity of your case.
- Once the jury has deliberated and found a verdict, the judge will call all parties to return back to court. The verdict will be announced to both parties. The verdict will inform you if you have won the case, and if you have been awarded any money for you personal injury claim.