This is the next post in our series discussing common issues that may arise in Fort Worth, Texas personal injury cases resulting in paralysis of the plaintiff. Our last article explained why paralysis cases can involve a significant period of time between the accident and their ultimate resolution. Given the medical complexities presented by a catastrophic injury and the potential long-term impact financially, it may be difficult to reach a quick estimation of damages. It is not uncommon for medical and other experts to require several months or more than a year to provide their conclusions. It is essential for families to understand that the legal process may be lengthy in order to manage expectations as the case moves forward. In this article we will discuss the possibility of having to attend a bifurcated trial, which sometimes occurs in these types of matters. If you or a loved one has been paralyzed in an accident then it is important that you call a personal injury lawyer immediately.
It is not uncommon for defendants in a personal injury case to request a bifurcated trial. This is especially true when the victim’s injuries are particularly severe, such as paralysis. In a normal trial, jurors are presented with evidence related to damages at the same time as they hear evidence related to liability. The jurors will then deliberate and issue a verdict in regards to both fault and compensation. A “bifurcated” trial, however, will occur in two phases instead of one. In the first phase of the case, the jury only hears evidence related to liability. The jurors will then be asked to decide whether the defendants are liable for the tragedy. If the jury finds that the defendants were liable for the incident then a second phase of the trial will be held. This second phase will involve the presentation of evidence in regards to damages. The jury will then deliberate and determine the extent to which the plaintiff should be compensated.
Defense attorneys often request bifurcation in paralysis cases out of a belief that jurors are less likely to rule in favor of the plaintiff if they do not hear evidence related to damages. Under this theory, they believe the jury may be unduly biased by the seriousness of the injuries sustained and make an unfair decision about the defendant’s liability. There are times, however, when medical information may be relevant to the establishment of liability. Suppose, for instance, that a victim suffers a spinal cord injury after a forklift accident at work. He is suing the manufacturer under a products liability theory for faulty design. Details about his injury, such as the angle of his broken bones and the impact to his spine are facts that help support the plaintiff’s legal theory. In a bifurcated trial setting, the jury would not be permitted to hear evidence about the injuries during the first phase. This presents a serious risk that the jury will not hear vital evidence. This is why, as a general matter, plaintiffs typically do not wish to attend a bifurcated trial.
Again, it is common for defense counsel to request a bifurcated trial setting. It is important that you retain a personal injury attorney who is experienced in opposing such requests. When selecting counsel, we suggest that you retain a firm which employs multiple lawyers in addition to its own investigator. We also suggest that you retain a firm in which counsel are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.