This is the next post in my series on the handling of trucking accident cases in Peoria, Illinois. My last post discussed what to expect at trial in such a case. It is important to know what to expect from the trial process due to the fact that, as with most things, knowing what to expect can help matters go more smoothly. It is important that you retain a law firm with trial experience as the Court will ensure that the rules of evidence are enforced. In this article we will discuss another issue which may arise in big rig cases – the possibility of a bifurcated trial. If you are in need of assistance then contact us today to speak with a lawyer.
While many trials follow the format discussed in our previous article, some are handled in a bifurcated format. A trial will be split into stages in this format. An example of this is a trial that is split into a liability portion and a damages portion. During the liability stage, the Court will only allow testimony and evidence related to the fault of the defendants. The Court will not allow evidence related to the victim’s injuries or economic losses. At the close of testimony, the jurors will be asked to decide whether the defendant(s) should be held liable for the accident. If the defendant(s) are found to be liable for the accident then the case will proceed to the damages portion. In this stage, the jurors will hear evidence regarding damages and deliver a verdict as to the extent to which the Plaintiff should be compensated. Trials are typically bifurcated to avoid a situation where the jury may find the defendants liable purely out of sympathy for a Plaintiff’s injuries; by disallowing evidence related to damages, jurors are unlikely to rule against a defendant solely on the basis of damages which the Plaintiff has endured.
Defendants will sometimes ask for bifurcated trials even when such a format would put a Plaintiff at a disadvantage. An example of this could be a case in which the victim has suffered serious head trauma which impacts their memory. During the liability phase of a trial, for obvious reasons, the Plaintiff may have trouble remembering events. The jury, without having knowledge of the head injury, may interpret this as the Plaintiff simply trying to make up facts on the stand. By informing the jury of the head injury, before liability is decided, the jurors may interpret the situation more favorable for the Plaintiff. It is important to recognize that this is just one example of situations which can arise in a bifurcated trial and how the Court will rule in any given instance is always going to depend on the specific facts of the case.
If you have been hit by a semi truck then it is important that you retain an attorney who is experienced in handling such matters. Your counsel will take steps to oppose any efforts by the defense to bifurcate the matter. In the event that a trial is bifurcated, counsel will take steps to ensure that the liability portion of your case is presented to the jury in as concise a manner as possible. Our Peoria truck accident lawyer believes in protecting the rights of individuals and not large corporations. This belief is why our office stands up for the victims of negligence as opposed to insurance companies. If you or a loved one are in need of assistance then contact us today to speak with an attorney. In addition to Peoria, our firm also serves clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.