Ordinarily, unless a party appeals the jury’s decision, once a case proceeds to trial, the case is concluded. However, the Second Department, which includes Nassau and Suffolk Counties, uses bifurcated trials to resolve personal injury cases. A bifurcated trial is where a trial is divided into two separate phases. At the first phase or trial, the jury determines if the defendant (person being sued) is liable (responsible) for the plaintiff’s injuries. Liability is always tried first. If the jury decides that a defendant is even one-percent liable, the case proceeds to the second trial. The second trial is when the jury decides the damages or the amount of monetary compensation that should be awarded to the plaintiff.
The two-trial requirement slows the resolution of your case. Additionally, you have to prepare for trial on two separate occasions. Unfortunately, if the plaintiff is not successful at the liability phase, they will not be able to force compensation for damages, regardless of how serious their injuries. Nonetheless, the bifurcated trial system benefits the plaintiff when the jury decides the defendant is legally responsible their injures. When the plaintiff is successful on the liability portion, it places them in a position of power. Once a jury decides the defendant is liable, the defendant is more likely to settle the case for a larger sum of money. It may save money for the plaintiff because it is costly to pay the experts who testify at the damages phase. Proceeding to the liability phase is normally less expensive than trying damages. Therefore, if the plaintiff is not successful on liability, the cost to produce expert testimony is saved. If the plaintiff is successful at liability, the cost of the experts is well spent, knowing that if the jury awards money damages, the defendant will have to pay.
For more information or to schedule a free consultation call the Law Offices of Jennifer G. Tocci, P.C., (631) 343-7676. We are conveniently located at 353 Veterans Memorial Highway, Suite 200, Commack, New York 11725.