Can You Request a Jury Trial for a Civil Injury Case in New York?
Many people are familiar with jury trials in the context of a criminal case but might be unaware that civil injury cases can use juries too. There are many benefits to having a jury decide your case that you might miss out on with a “bench trial” before a lone judge.
In New York, jury trials are allowed for many injury cases. Cases in “small claims court” typically do not have juries, but any claims filed for serious injuries and substantial compensation will have the chance at a jury trial. Before moving forward with a jury trial, you should undersatnd what a jury trial entails and whether it is best for your specific case.
For a free case review, call our New York personal injury lawyers today. Contact The Carrion Law Firm now by calling (718) 841-0083.
When is a Jury Trial Allowed in a New York Injury Case?
Jury trials are incredibly common in criminal cases, where you typically want to request a jury trial whenever you can. However, jury trials are also permitted in many civil cases in New York. In an injury case, having a neutral jury of your peers decide your case can be helpful most times, but it is not allowed in every single type of civil case.
Generally, injury cases are going to qualify for a jury trial because jury trials are permitted most cases dealing with monetary damages. However, there may be some issues sent to small claims court or some commercial litigation issues where a jury trial is presumed to be waived by the plaintiff (the party filing the case). Even in those cases, the defendant might still be able to request a jury trial. However, these complications usually do not come up in personal injury cases.
Our Queens personal injury lawyers can help you request a jury in your injury case.
Rules for a Civil Injury Jury Trial in New York
People might be more familiar with how jury selection works in a criminal case. Whether you’ve previously been involved with a trial, served on jury duty, or just seen criminal cases on TV, you might know that a jury for a criminal case usually has 12 jurors with some alternates, and that the decision needs to be unanimous for a conviction. In a civil injury case, the rules are a bit different.
First, C.V.P. Law § 4104 sets the number of jurors for a civil case at 6 instead of 12. This means that the first 6 jurors selected will be “the jury,” but alternates can still be used.
An alternate juror sits with the jury, takes an oath, and acts like a juror, but they are dismissed and do not participate in the judgment if all 6 original jurors make it to the end of the case. If any juror is sick or absent, an alternate takes their spot on the jury. Many civil injury cases are resolved within a day or two and alternates are not necessary. If the case is expected to be longer or deals with very in-depth testimony and legal issues, either party can request that alternate jurors be selected to ensure they do not need to start over if they lose too many jurors.
In civil cases, C.V.P. Law § 4113 states that a unanimous verdict is not required, but only one dissent is allowed. If the jury cannot get 5 out of 6 of the jurors to agree, then the judge can order them to continue to go back and deliberate further. If a decision truly cannot be reached, the judge can order the jury discharged and set a new date for a new trial before a freshly selected panel of jurors.
What Does a Jury Do vs. What Does a Judge Do in a Civil Injury Case in NY?
It is important to understand the difference between what a judge and a jury do in a civil case. This might ultimately help you understand how to proceed with your case, but you can certainly schedule a free case review with our Brooklyn personal injury lawyers if you have further questions.
The jury in a trial decides the facts, while the judge decides the law. This means that if there are any material questions about what happened, the jury will listen to the facts and decide the answers. For example, the following questions will typically go to the jury:
- Based on what happened, did the defendant commit negligence?
- Did the accident actually cause the victim’s injuries?
- How much are the victim’s injuries worth?
Many of these questions have some deep legal issues that affect how the facts can be applied. There are also many other legal questions in a trial, such as questions about the admissibility of evidence. The judge decides all of these issues.
In any case, you can often skip the request for a jury and have a judge decide the facts instead. This is called a “bench trial” and is often an option in your injury case.
Is it Better to Have a Jury Trial or Bench Trial for My New York Injury Claim?
Sometimes having a jury is best, but other times it might actually be better to have a bench trial with a judge deciding the case instead of a jury. Our Staten Island personal injury lawyers can help you decide what’s best in your case.
A judge’s professionalism often means ignoring their own sympathies and remaining neutral. Juries, on the other hand, might see themselves in you and actively want to award you damages. However, this can cut against you if the jury is more likely to sympathize with the defendant instead. A judge could be better at ignoring a sympathetic defendant and deciding based on the facts alone.
Juries are typically made up of lay people, and they are not allowed to bring their own experience and expertise to the deliberation room. Instead, they have to rely on the evidence they heard in court. This can make it hard for a jury to understand complex issues like pharmaceutical injuries and medical malpractice. In these cases, you might want a bench trial before a judge who might have more experience with these complex cases.
Talk to our personal injury lawyers about these and other considerations when deciding between a jury trial and a bench trial for your New York injury case.
Call Our New York Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you suffered an injury and are considering a lawsuit, call our Bronx personal injury lawyers at The Carrion Law Firm today. Our number is (718) 841-0083.