This is the next post in a series of articles discussing trucking accident cases in Laredo, Texas. My previous post discussed the importance of retaining a law firm with adequate resources to handle such cases. This is particularly important in trucking accident cases, which can become complicated for a variety of reasons. When personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, law firms incur costs and expenses throughout the process and are reimbursed only if their client recovers damages from the defendants. Without the financial resources to do so, a firm may not be able to provide the level of representation necessary to maximize the victim’s recovery. In this article, I will discuss another common issue that arises in accidents involving commercial trucks – the possibility of facing a bifurcated trial. If you need assistance, contact my office to schedule a consultation.
It is not uncommon for defense attorneys in a catastrophic personal injury case to request a bifurcated, or two-part, trial. In a typical trucking accident trial, jurors are presented with evidence related to the liability of the defendants at the same time as they hear evidence related to the victim’s injuries and financial damages. The jurors will then deliberate and issue a verdict regarding both fault and compensation. When a case is bifurcated, on the other hand, the liability phase of the trial is separated from the damages phase of the proceeding. In the first phase of the case, the jury only hears evidence related to liability. The jurors will then be asked to decide whether the defendants’ negligence or misconduct caused the accident. Only if the jury finds that the defendants were responsible for the incident will a second phase of the trial be conducted. This second phase will involve the presentation of evidence about the victim’s damages, including the severity of the injuries, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. The jury will then deliberate and determine the extent to which the plaintiff should be compensated.
The rationale behind requesting bifurcation in serious injury accidents is the defense counsel’s belief that jurors may be biased against the defendants if they are presented with information about the victim’s injuries. This is especially true in trucking accident cases in which the victim’s injuries are particularly severe and damage awards are anticipated to be extremely high. Under this theory, the defendant’s attorney believes the jury may be unduly biased by the seriousness of the injuries sustained and make an unfair decision about their client’s liability. From the victim’s standpoint, however, there are occasions when medical information may be relevant to the establishment of liability. Suppose, for instance, that a victim suffers a spinal cord injury after being rear-ended by a box truck whose brakes were faulty. He is suing the owner, operator, and driver for failing to maintain a safe vehicle in accordance with applicable trucking regulations. Details about his injury, such as the impact on his spine are facts that help support the plaintiff’s legal theory. In a bifurcated trial setting, the jury would not be permitted to hear evidence about the injuries during the liability phase, which would preclude them from learning vital evidence. This is why, as a general matter, plaintiffs typically do not wish to attend a bifurcated trial.
Again, it is common for defense counsel to request a bifurcated trial setting. It is important that you retain a personal injury attorney who understands how and when to oppose such requests. My office is prepared to handle serious injury cases and is ready to assist you. Contact us today to speak with a Laredo lawyer. In addition to Laredo, I serve clients elsewhere in south Texas.