What to Expect During a California Personal Injury Trial gavel and scale in front of a California judge

You don't have to accept an out-of-court settlement for a California personal injury claim if you're not satisfied with the offer. Instead, you have the right to file a lawsuit in court to pursue fair compensation for the injuries, damages, and losses caused by another party's negligence. This article will discuss what to expect in a personal injury trial.


The first thing you need to do is consult a Costa Mesa personal injury lawyer for a case evaluation. During the consultation, the lawyer will discuss several issues, including the extent of your injuries, the evidence, and compensation options. In addition, you can use this opportunity to ask your lawyer any questions about their services, experience with such cases, attorney fees, etc.

The lawyer will also inform you of the steps preceding a trial. These steps are essential in initiating the trial process. They include:

  • Filing court documents
  • Exchanging evidence (Discovery process)
  • Attending pretrial motions and hearings
  • Negotiating settlement options

Jury Selection

If the case proceeds to trial, the next step is to select a jury. This process is also called voir dire.

Usually, a judge presides over jury selection. The attorneys representing the parties involved in the case will then interview a group of potential jurors to ensure that they don't hold biased opinions that would compromise their decisions.

Opening Statements

The attorneys representing the parties to the case will present their opening statements to the court. Typically, the primary responsibility of the plaintiff's attorney is to prove the defendant's negligence and the extent of injuries, loss, and damages the plaintiff incurred. For this reason, the plaintiff's attorney is always the first to submit their opening statement.

The defendant's attorney comes second in presenting their opening statements. Their job is to defend their client against the plaintiff's allegations.

Witness Testimonies and Cross-Examination

The plaintiff's attorney is usually the first to call their witnesses to the stand. They may also present their evidence and exhibits to the jury and the judge. First, the witness must take an oath, vowing to tell the truth. The plaintiff's attorney then questions the witness through the direct examination process. The defendant's attorney may question the plaintiff's witness on their testimony about the case. This process is called cross-examination and allows the defendant to point out faults in the witness's testimony.

After the defendant's cross-examination, the plaintiff's attorney may question the witness again through re-direct examination. The defendant's attorney then brings their witnesses to stand for questioning. The process repeats itself until both parties exhaust their witnesses.

The Closing Arguments

During the closing arguments phase, the attorneys present a summary of their stand in the dispute. Closing arguments give the attorneys from both sides a chance to convince the judge and the jury that they are right. Usually, the lawyers focus on the evidence and exhibits presented in the case to make their closing remarks.

The plaintiff's attorney submits their closing arguments first, followed by the defendant's attorney. The plaintiff's attorney also has a chance to make a rebuttal argument after the defense attorney's presentation.

Closing arguments significantly influence the court's final decision. For this reason, you need to ensure that you work with a skilled attorney who is passionate about advocating for your rights.

Jury Instructions

Before the final verdict, the judge reads out a set of instructions to the jury. These instructions outline the legal standards the jury must follow when deciding whether the defendant was at fault.

These instructions also inform the jury of the factors to consider depending on the circumstances of the case. Although they are typically standard instructions, the judge may customize a few guidelines to suit the case.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

Finally, the jury deliberates on the case for the first time to determine whether or not the defendant should be held accountable for the plaintiff's injuries. This process may take a few hours, days, weeks, or months to complete.

The jury must reach a unanimous verdict and present it to the judge. The judge then reads out this verdict and signs the judgment prepared by the winning party. If the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial. As a result, the case will be dismissed or start all over again with a new jury.

How We Can Help

It's quite clear that personal injury cases are not some of the easiest to handle, especially without an experienced serious injuries lawyer. In addition, the court process itself can be overwhelming even for some attorneys. For this reason, you need not just any ordinary attorney - you need a seasoned attorney to defend your rights aggressively. That's where an experienced personal injury law firm comes in.

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