Mistrials In Personal Injury Cases

There are a lot of things that can wrong when you take a civil case trial—that may be one of the reasons that the vast majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. One major thing that can derail your personal injury claim is a mistrial. Learn more about why mistrials occur and what to expect if it does.

Mistrials are declared when a fair verdict is impossible.

A mistrial stops a trial from continuing—and it can occur at any stage of the trial—whether it's just at the beginning during jury selection or all the way after the jury starts deliberating on a verdict. Because trials are costly and time-consuming, mistrials are a fairly extreme option and are only used when no other option can give a fair verdict. There are a number of common reasons for mistrials:

  • telling the jury that the defendant's liability insurance will cover the costs of a personal injury verdict, or even mentioning that the defendant has liability insurance
  • introducing evidence that's been declared inadmissible in a previous ruling by mentioning it in testimony or during closing arguments
  • the sudden death of someone critical to the case, like the judge, an attorney, one of the witnesses, the defendant, or an expert witness

Problems with the jury may be one of the most likely causes of a mistrial, simply because they don't always follow instructions. For example, a mistrial was recently declared in a prominent California injury trial after some of the jury members talked about the evidence to other people. Judges typically warn against that specific activity in an effort to keep jury members from having their opinions shaped before all the evidence in a case is presented. 

Pay careful attention to the judge when a mistrial is declared.

If a mistrial is declared, listen very carefully to the judge's statements about the case. If the case is dismissed without prejudice (which is likely), that means that you are free to bring the case back to court at a later date, but a new trial isn't ordered. The judge may hope that you and the defendant will come to an agreement without having to start the process over again—particularly if most of the evidence has already been heard.

However, if it seems inevitable that the case will need to be retried, the judge may simply start the process over again and schedule the new trial date. You'll have to go through an entirely new jury selection as well. There may also be additional meetings to discuss whatever issue brought the mistrial into being, in order to resolve the issue and prevent a re-occurrence.

If the case is dismissed with prejudice, the judge is saying that it can't be retried for some reason. At that point, you'll want to confer with your attorney to find out what the problem is and see if you can appeal the judge's decision to a higher court.

If you need help with your person injury case, go to http://gomezmaylaw.com/ for more information and to talk to an attorney.