Selecting a jury is a critical part of any personal injury case. The jurors are people selected, at random, from the community where the case is being tried. The selection of jury members is part art and part science.
The artistic part is that your lawyers are trying to get the best read possible on how each of the jurors thinks about issues like responsibility, pain, medical treatment, family, and damages.
The science part is that lawyers are given a specific number of challenges they can use during the selection process. Once they’ve used their challenges, they must accept any new jurors unless the juror can be disqualified because he/she has a clear bias or can’t serve for a legitimate reason.
The voir dire process
The formal selection of a jury is called voir dire. This is the time, before any statements are made or evidence is presented, when the lawyers and their clients get to question potential jurors. In many courts, the judge will ask the jurors of standard questions first. Then the lawyers get to ask their questions.
Some of the standard questions judges ask are:
- Do you know anyone involved in the personal injury case?
- Is there any reason you might be biased in favor one side?
- Is there any reason, such as an ill child or parent, that you can’t serve?
Lawyers for both sides generally want to ask as many questions as possible to learn about the likes and dislikes and other interests that might affect the decision the juror will make. Good lawyers will ask short questions that are designed to get the juror talking.
What plaintiff’s lawyers are looking for during voir dire
A key part of the question and answer process is understanding what type of case you have. Lawyers in car accident cases will be looking for some different things than lawyers in a product liability case. This is because, for example, in most car crash cases the defendant is another person – just like any juror. In product liability cases, the defendants are corporations. Some jurors are sympathetic to other people. Some jurors are positively angry at corporations. You need to know the different when you pick a jury.
The plaintiff’s lawyers are generally looking for jurors who:
- Have experienced some degree of physical or emotional pain. Prior experience suggests they may be sympathetic about your injuries.
- Aren’t inclined to favor insurance companies or big corporations.
- Appreciate that people should be held accountable for their mistakes even if they’re honest mistakes.
- Are not afraid to find that large damage awards should be paid for catastrophic injuries, permanent injuries, and victims who experienced severe pain.
- Are willing to listen.
Asking good questions means phrasing questions so that people with a limited education can understand them. For example, saying “jury selection” is usually more helpful than saying “voir dire.”
Plaintiff’s lawyers also analyze which jurors are likely to persuade other jurors that their viewpoint should be adopted by the whole jury. Persuasive jurors can be helpful – if they’re on your side.
The Gladiators in Suits at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm are experienced trial lawyers. We have obtained numerous large verdicts because we understand the jury selection process and how to argue before a jury. We seek full compensation for your daily and long-term pain, your medical expenses, loss of quality of life, and lost income.