In most lawsuits for personal injury from a car accident the defendant’s lawyers will request that the trial be decided by a jury instead of a judge alone. In most cases the defendant has the right to request that.
Why do defendants request a jury in a car accident injury trial? Some of the possible reasons that i personally believe play a role are:
1. A jury is not allowed to be told that the defendant has car insurance that will pay damages awarded.
2. A jury is not allowed to be told that a secret “deductible” of $30,000 will be subtracted from their pain and suffering award to the plaintiff unless the award is more than $100,000.
3. A jury can be unpredictable and the risks are much higher for the plaintiff (who has one case) as opposed to the insurance company (which has many)
4. A jury will not know that if the plaintiff does not get more than what the defendant offed then insurance company can pursue the plaintiff for its costs
5. A jury may not be as familiar with medical concepts and may not be able to deal as easily with a claim for injuries that are not “objective”-and pain is rarely objective.
6. A jury may not know that the doctors hired by the defence are working for an insurance company that provides, potentially, a considerable part of their yearly income and some are alleged to have biases.
While all of these things are true, you should not be discouraged from pursuing your claim if you have an honest and valid claim. Our jury system is, i believe, meant to provide a democratic check on the role of the courts in deciding cases and to keep the courts informed of the view of society.
My very firm belief is that juries are made up of good people who have a real desire to do the right thing and take the role seriously. While there is certainly risk, there is also no other means of compensation.
*Steven Polak is a personal injury lawyer practicing in the GTA, York Region, Durham and also sits on the board of directors for the Canadian Mental Health Association-York Region.