This is the next post in a series of articles discussing wrongful death cases in Peoria, Illinois. My previous article discussed the importance of the discovery process in wrongful death matters. An experienced lawyer will understand how to use discovery to build evidence in support of their client’s case. In complex cases where liability and damages are hotly contested, evidence identified through the discovery process can be essential. In this article, I will focus on another important topic – what to expect during a wrongful death trial. It is imperative to contact an attorney with wrongful death trial experience to assist you through the process. If you have lost a loved one in an accident, contact my office today.
If a settlement agreement with the defendant’s insurance company cannot be reached, a wrongful death matter will proceed to trial. In Illinois, the legal representative of the deceased is entitled to a trial by jury under our state’s wrongful death statute. The trial process begins with jury selection. Potential jurors are summoned to the court and questioned to determine whether they are able to be unbiased in their review of the case. Lawyers for the plaintiff and defendants may also ask questions and are permitted to eliminate a certain number of potential jurors that they believe may not be fair to their clients. Challenges cannot be made on discriminatory grounds, such as race, gender, or religion.
Once the final jury is empaneled, counsel for the plaintiff and each defendant will present their opening statements. Opening statements are an opportunity to provide the jury with an overview of the facts and legal theories that will be discussed throughout the case. The plaintiff’s lawyer will next present their evidence to the jury, including witness testimony. After the plaintiff’s case is concluded, defense counsel will have an opportunity to present evidence. Wrongful death cases commonly involve multiple expert witnesses, both testifying on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendants. Expert testimony may include information about the causes of the accident, accident reconstruction, potential damages, and more, which can be extremely technical and complicated. Following the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the lawyers for each side will make their closing arguments. Closing arguments are used to recap and summarize for the jurors what may have been complex and sometimes disjointed testimony. Following closing arguments, the jurors will deliberate and render a verdict. If the plaintiff’s case is successful, the jury will also award damages.
Trials can be complicated and attorneys must follow strict procedural and evidentiary rules throughout the process. Furthermore, it can be difficult to convey legal arguments and evidence clearly and effectively to jurors. It is imperative, therefore, to retain counsel with trial experience to represent your interests. I have extensive experience in Peoria wrongful death cases and am ready to assist you. If you need assistance with a wrongful death case, contact my office 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.