This is the next post in our series discussing issues which commonly arise during Fort Worth, Texas bicycle accident litigation. Our last article discussed the reasons accident victims should resist accepting a hasty settlement offer from the defendant’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters typically contact the injured parties shortly after an accident and, in many cases, present an offer to settle the case early in the process. Many victims, who may be experiencing financial hardship because they are off of work or face very large medical bills after the crash, are tempted to accept such offers. It is important to fully ascertain one’s damages before considering a settlement offer. Failing to do so may result in accepting compensation far less than what the victim would have been entitled to receive and foreclosing any opportunity to seek additional damages in the future. In this article, we will discuss the possibility of having a bifurcated trial in a bicycle accident case. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an accident, then it is important that you call a personal injury lawyer immediately.
In a typical personal injury trial, attorneys present evidence about the defendant’s liability and the victim’s damages to the jury in the same proceeding. The jurors will then deliberate and issue a verdict regarding both fault and compensation at the same time. In cases involving serious injuries, defense attorneys commonly ask the Judge to bifurcate the trial. If the request is granted, the trial is divided into two separate phases, one related to determining liability and the other to prove the victim’s damages. Evidence presented during the first phase will relate only to the liability of the defendant, without reference to the plaintiff’s injuries or damages. This means that the jury will not be given any information about the types of injuries suffered, how severe, or the impact of the injuries on the victim and their family. Only if the jury determines that the defendant is responsible in the first phase, will the case proceed to the second phase, which will determine the victim’s damages.
The primary rationale behind bifurcating a trial is that if the jury is given information about the severity of the victim’s injuries, they may be overly sympathetic and therefore biased in favor of the victim. This is particularly true in cases involving catastrophic injuries such as brain trauma, paralysis, loss of limbs, etc., which commonly occur in bike accidents. Plaintiff’s counsel will generally argue against such a request on various grounds. For instance, there are times when information about the victim’s injuries sustained may be relevant to the establishment of the defendant’s liability. Suppose, for example, that a bike rider is struck by a semi-truck and suffers severe and permanent brain damage. The victim’s attorney argues that the accident was caused by the driver’s reckless operation of the truck. The defense attorney argues that the cyclist’s injuries were partially the result of faulty safety gear. To disprove this theory, it may be necessary to present evidence about the victim’s injuries during the liability phase of the trial. If not permitted to do so because the trial is bifurcated, the jury may only hear a portion of the relevant evidence, therefore damaging the cyclist’s case.
If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle accident, it is important that you retain a personal injury attorney who is experienced in litigation and understands how to challenge bifurcation requests. When selecting counsel, we suggest that you retain a firm that employs multiple lawyers in addition to its own investigator. We also suggest that you retain a firm in which the attorneys are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. This is true whether your case is in Fort Worth or other areas of Texas.