When we represent clients in a personal injury or wrongful death claims against negligent truck drivers, we seek—whenever possible—to negotiate full and fair compensation before going to trial. A settlement is faster and easier for all parties involved. This does not, however, mean that we are unwilling to go to trial for our clients when the defense refuses to offer a fair compensation amount for an accident claim.
When settlement is not an option, we do not hesitate to litigate cases in the courtroom. Our attorneys are experienced litigators with a confident command of courtroom procedure, and, to use the words of a former client, “When Bob Pahlke speaks, the jury listens!”
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a truck accident, you might be eligible for compensation related to your injuries. Call the skilled legal team at the Robert Pahlke Law Group at (308) 633-4444 to schedule a free consultation with a qualified truck accident attorney and to discuss the best strategy for your case. If we take your case to trial, the jury will listen to the evidence that each side presents to establish the facts of the case, review that evidence, apply the law to those facts, reach a verdict, and award damages.
Determining the Facts of a Case
When a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, each side has the opportunity to present an argument to the jury. This includes questioning witnesses, cross-examinations, and presenting evidence to the jury about the accident and related injuries. Examples of such evidence include police reports, truck driver log books, trucking company maintenance records, and citations issued by law enforcement at the time of the accident. Your attorney will also present medical records and expert opinions regarding your injuries, which might include questioning expert witnesses and providing the jury with results from an independent medical examination. The jury is responsible for determining how the accident happened and how it caused your injuries by listening to testimony and considering all of the evidence.
Reviewing Testimony and Evidence
During trial and deliberations, juries continuously review the testimony and evidence that both sides present. The court instructs jurors to pay careful attention to the evidence so that they can weigh each piece fairly during their deliberations. A skilled personal injury attorney knows the rules surrounding what types of evidence may be submitted to the jury. Attorneys don’t typically take cases that they believe they cannot win. The success of any personal injury case hinges on the evidence and testimony that each side presents to the jury.
Application of Law
Although the judge that presides over a case is responsible for determining which laws apply, he or she will merely instruct the jury on these laws and how they should be applied. After determining the facts and taking instructions from the judge after each side’s closing argument, the jurors must reach a verdict. A judge’s jury instructions are typically lengthy. In personal injury cases, these instructions usually include discussions of negligence. Under Nebraska law, a jury must find that a defendant acted negligently to decide a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must establish the four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. All drivers owe other motorists a duty of care to drive safely, including truck drivers.
- Breach of duty. The jury will use the facts of the case to determine if a truck driver breached his or her duty of care.
- The breach harmed the plaintiff. If the jury determines that a breach of duty occurred, it will next examine whether that breach caused injury to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff suffered a measurable injury. For a plaintiff to recover damages, the jury must determine that the plaintiff suffered measurable loss based on the facts of the case.
One of the most important roles and biggest challenges for a jury is to take the judge’s jury instructions and apply the law to the facts of the case without succumbing to an emotional reaction.
Reaching a Verdict
After both sides have presented their closing arguments to the jury, the jurors are taken to a private room where they have no access to outside news sources, lawyers, witnesses, or any other interested parties. The jury weighs each piece of evidence, applies the law according to the judge’s instructions, and determines liability. Unlike juries in a criminal case, juries in personal injury cases do not need to reach a unanimous decision. The jury does, however, need to achieve a majority consensus. Once the jury reaches their decision, the jurors return to the courtroom and the judge announces their verdict. Jury deliberation may take minutes, days, or weeks, depending on the specifics and complexity of the case.
Calculating and Awarding Damages
In personal injury cases that take place in civil court, the jury often determines the value of court-awarded damages. When truck accidents are involved, some damages are easy to calculate, such as medical costs and lost wages. Other damages are more difficult for a jury to determine. The jury will consider the amount of pain and suffering involved; if the plaintiff suffered permanent disability, scarring, and/or disfigurement; and if the injury significantly impacted the plaintiff’s quality of life. The jury may also consider other potential non-economic losses. Both economic and non-economic damages exist to compensate victims for losses that are directly related to their injuries.
In rare cases, juries might award punitive damages, which are intended to punish defendants and deter them from repeating similar behavior in the future. Courts in Nebraska, like many other states, rarely award punitive damages. In cases where the jury is given evidence that demonstrates a willful intent to harm or gross negligence, it might award punitive damages to the plaintiff. In personal injury cases that involve trucking accidents, a jury might award punitive damages if a truck driver knowingly drank large amounts of alcohol or consumed drugs and drove a commercial vehicle.
In Nebraska, once a jury decides on an award, it must apply a comparative fault rule. Thus, the jury will consider the extent to which a plaintiff is at fault for his or her own injuries. Perhaps the driver was under the influence of alcohol when a truck driver who was texting caused an accident. The jury might determine that the plaintiff was 20 percent at fault for the accident, because he or she might have been able to avoid the accident if not for driving under the influence. Under these circumstances, the jury would reduce the plaintiff’s damages award by 20 percent.
Nebraska courts apply a modified comparative fault rule to personal injury cases. The modification refers to a 50 percent threshold, which means that if a jury determines that a plaintiff was 50 percent or more at fault for the accident and resulting injury, the law prohibits him or her from collecting any damages.
We Believe in the Jury System
At the Robert Pahlke Law Group, we have a deep and abiding faith in the role that juries play in the legal process. Juries serve to protect the public interest by ensuring a fair trial. Rather than depending on the opinion of a single judge, referring a case to a jury of citizens brings balance to the verdict by involving the viewpoints of multiple people. A jury, which is ideally a cross-section of the local community, decides a case according to the law as well as the societal opinions of those who live alongside both the plaintiff and defendant.
In the event that a case proceeds to a jury trial, it is up to the attorneys representing each side to convince the members of the jury to rule their clients’ favor. This may include introducing evidence and witnesses, cross-examining witnesses, and making compelling and persuasive arguments, all with the goal of ensuring a certain conclusion. In truck accident cases, there are two primary goals: (1) to convince the jury that the truck driver is at fault for causing the accident and (2) to demonstrate to the jury why it should award generous monetary damages for the plaintiff’s losses. In other words, it is up to the jury not only to decide whether you win your case but also to decide to how much compensation you are entitled. Our attorneys have a proven track record of success in arguing cases before juries, and we have helped our past clients win millions of dollars in damages.
Let Us Tell Your Story! Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group After Your Truck Accident
Our job as trial lawyers is to fully understand your story so that we can tell it to the jury in a compelling manner. To achieve this goal, we take the time to get to know every one of our clients, because if we do not truly appreciate how your injuries have affected your life, then how can we relay this important information to the jury? The first step is to meet with us face to face for a free consultation, during which you can discuss your concerns and receive answers to all of your questions. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, to get started.