Frequently Asked Questions
Related Videos Available - Click to Collapse Click to Collapse

Trial

  1. How many case go to trial?
  2. What cases do go to trial?
  3. When will a case go to trial?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to trial?
  5. How long does a trial last?
  6. What can I expect to happen at a trial?

Questions & Answers

How many case go to trial?
Answer:
5% to 10% of cases go to trial. All other cases settle before trial.

^ Return to top

What cases do go to trial?
Answer:
Any case potentially has to be tried. That is why it is important for a plaintiff to always hire a trial attorney. The cases that end up going to trial are those in which the plaintiff and the defendant view the case so differently that they simply cannot resolve their differences in a settlement. The advantage to the plaintiff retaining a trial lawyer is that the plaintiff will not be forced to lower his or her settlement expectations because the plaintiff's attorney is unable to effectively try the case. When this situation occurs, the plaintiff is stuck accepting the highest amount of money offered by the defendant or insurance company, even if it is less than the plaintiff expects or the value of the case.

^ Return to top

When will a case go to trial?
Answer:
The answer to this question is generally determined by the complexity of the case and how backlogged the courts system is at the time the case is put into suit. Most cases in Minnesota go to trial somewhere between ten months and 18 months from the date when the case was originally filed. Some cases do take longer to get to trial, and some get to trial sooner, particularly if the plaintiff is dying or elderly.

^ Return to top

What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to trial?
Answer:
From a plaintiff's point of view, the advantages or disadvantages of going to trial must be weighed in light of the proximity of the defendant or insurance company's settlement offer to the value of the case. The lower a defendant's offer relative to the plaintiff's evaluation of the case, the easier it is to refuse the offer and go to trial. If, on the other hand, a defendant's offer is close to or higher than the plaintiff's attorney's prediction of what a jury will do if the case tries, then it becomes a much more risky proposition to go to trial.
The benefit of settling a case short of trial is that all risk is avoided. As anyone who has followed trials knows, what a jury will do in a given case is totally unpredictable and, therefore, going to trial is always a risk.

^ Return to top

How long does a trial last?
Answer:
The length of a trial will vary depending upon the complexity of the case, the number of witnesses. Jury trials generally take at least three days to complete, and can go as long as many months. The average length of a trial is probably between four to five days.

^ Return to top

What can I expect to happen at a trial?
Answer:
The format of a trial will not vary much from case to case. The trial begins with pretrial legal motions made by the attorneys in front of the judge. Then, a jury is selected, usually by a combination of questions and challenges by the attorneys and the judge. Each attorney then gives an opening statement, which is a summary of his or her case. The plaintiff then puts on his or her case through the questioning of witnesses and introducing documents into evidence. When the plaintiff rests, the defendant presents his or her case in a similar manner. After the defense rests the plaintiff is given the opportunity to present any rebuttal witnesses or testimony. The plaintiff makes a closing argument, followed by the defendant's, and the plaintiff is then allowed a rebuttal argument. The jury is instructed on the law by the judge and goes to the jury room to deliberate. After reaching a verdict, the jury is called back into the courtroom and the verdict is read aloud by the court clerk.

^ Return to top