However, if an injury or even a death occurs accidentally, that is not always a criminal charge—drunk driving being a major exception—and so there is usually no criminal punishment. In these cases, a financial punishment, in the form of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit can be taken to court and resolved. But there’s one thing that both types of punishments require if they go to court and that is the decision of a jury. So what role does the jury play in a lawsuit? How does it differ from a criminal trial?
Half A Dozen Will Do
One of the biggest differences between a criminal jury and a civil jury for a trial is the numbers involved. Traditionally, criminal cases require 12 people to fill the seats and deliberate on a verdict. But for civil suits, because they are of a less serious nature—at least in determining a defendant’s final fate—six jurors are sufficient for Florida cases.
But there’s one area where both criminal and civil juries are exactly alike and that is the verdict. There are other states where it’s not required for a civil lawsuit, but in the state of Florida, as with a criminal trial, a unanimous verdict must be reached by the jury in order to award a plaintiff with the damages for a lawsuit, or to find in favor of the defendant and award no damages. If no consensus can be reached either way, then it is declared a hung jury, or a mistrial. This means that, if desired, another trial can be scheduled to see if the jury can arrive at a decision one way or the other.
It’s important to note here that the jury is carefully selected to be as neutral as possible. This is usually much easier to achieve in civil lawsuits, since there won’t be the same level of foreknowledge and notoriety as with a well-known crime that is covered frequently on the news.
In either case, the goal is the same. The jury is expected to throw pre-conceived notions, fixed attitudes, biases or prejudices out the window, and come to a decision based entirely on the facts that are available. A jury can not find in favor of a plaintiff because they do not like the look of the face of the defendant. But they can find in favor of the plaintiff if, after hearing all the arguments, being presented with the evidence, and consulting with each other, they analyze what they’ve got and arrive at a conclusion.
A Different Skillset
This is why some lawyers prefer to settle out of court, if possible. An out of court settlement is a simple negotiation between the two involved parties. A trial, on the other hand, must not only investigate, present evidence, call up witnesses and gather testimony, it requires a lawyer with the skill and charisma to clearly communicate with the jury, and be understood. Lawyers that don’t relate well to the average, everyday person may have trouble comfortably interacting with a jury. If you’re serious about going to trial with your lawsuit, make sure your lawyer has the experience you need to successfully deal with a jury in presenting your case..