If you are considering taking your personal injury case to court, you may be wondering how the case will proceed. While most people understand juries being used in criminal cases, many people might not realize that a jury trial is also available in most civil trials as well. As part of our constitutional rights, any case can go to a trial by jury – and Arkansas protects that right as well. If you are considering taking your case to court, let Arkansas personal injury attorney Ken Kieklak handle your car accident injury, workplace injury, or defective product liability trial.
When Is a Jury Trial Allowed in Arkansas?
First, any criminal case can use a jury in Arkansas. This is not within our attorneys’ area of practice, but it is certainly a popular time for jury trials to take place. Most people have heard the phrase “trial by a jury of your peers,” and that is most commonly used in criminal cases. There, it is up to a jury of other people to decide whether or not the crime happened.
In civil cases, jury trials are more rare – but do occur. Art. II, § 7 of the Arkansas State Constitution states, in part, that “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and shall extend to all cases at law, without regard to the amount in controversy….” This means that any civil case, no matter how much money is at stake, can be taken before a jury. Alternatively, both parties are allowed to waive their right to a jury trial, and seek a trial before a judge only.
A civil case is basically any case that is not criminal – meaning any case where no one was charged with a crime. These cases usually deal with money. Whether that’s money from a contract or sale, money to reimburse medical bills, or even money to reimburse pain and suffering.
Further, the Constitution’s guarantee says that this right extends “to all cases at law.” This is a bit more complicated for deciding whether a particular case includes a right to a jury trial. A case “at law” usually means any case where you seek monetary damages, rather than trying to compel someone to do something. This means that personal injury cases of all kinds, like slip and falls and construction accidents, are all “cases at law” that are entitled to a jury trial.
Why Should I Use a Jury Trial in Arkansas?
A jury’s job, in a jury trial, is to decide the facts. Both sides present their sides of the story, and the jury decides what is true, whether the defendant is liable, and how much the injuries cost (thus, how much the award should be). The judge’s job is to act as a referee, make decisions about the evidence, and make other decisions about how the law applies to the case. The judge does not decide facts – only the law. If the parties reject a trial by jury, they could have a “bench trial” instead, where the judge decides both fact and law.
Judges work every day in cases involving injured plaintiffs, and many become skeptical over the years. Because of this, it may be better for you and your case to have everyday people, like those in a jury, decide the facts of your case. Further, since juries typically do not have the experience of lawsuits, they will not compare the awards from one case to another case. This means you get a fair chance to prove your injuries and their value without the outcome of another case influencing the jury’s decisions.
Sometimes, though, choosing a bench trial is a better option. Sometimes only certain issues are at stake, and the judge might be better equipped to make a quick, easy decision. This means going through the process of selecting a jury, proving the case, and awaiting jury deliberations might be too involved and take too long. Other times, it is simply easier to convince one judge of the facts than it is to convince 12 jurors.
Many times, the best option is avoiding trial entirely. When the two parties can come to an arrangement, they can “settle” the case, rather than fight the case in a courtroom. This means avoiding expensive and time-consuming trial processes, like filing, discovering evidence, performing depositions, and hiring experts to evaluate the case and testify. “Settling” is not synonymous with “giving up,” and is often the best way to get you the highest compensation with the lowest expense and time. It is very important, though, to consult an attorney on your case, to know whether a settlement offer has a fair value.
Arkansas Personal Injury Trial Attorney
Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has been practicing law and taking cases to trial for over two decades. If you have been injured in a car accident, workplace accident, or any other accident, Ken Kieklak may be able to help you take your case to trial or get compensation from over sources and settlements. Call (479) 316-0438 today for a free consultation.
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