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Massachusetts Car Accident Case Examines Civil Lawsuit’s Voir Dire

Before any jury trial, the attorneys for the parties to the lawsuit can speak to, question, and make strikes of citizens within the jury pool to shape the eventual panel that hears the case and decides whether liability exists and which (if any) damages to award. This is known as voir dire. Like any part of a trial, voir dire must follow the guidelines established through statutes and case law. If not, a party has the right to appeal on this issue.

auto light A recent Appeals Court case case (15-P-1421) analyzes whether or not a ruling regarding voir dire was sufficient to warrant the dismissal of the injured party’s motion for a new trial.

The injured party was seriously injured as a passenger during a car accident involving two vehicles. She had left a social event with friends to go to a fast food restaurant. She was in the front passenger seat. The driver merged onto the road and intended to enter the left travel lane and cross the two opposite lanes to enter the parking lot. The driver saw the other defendant’s car’s headlights in the distance traveling toward them in the opposite lane, but she thought that she had enough time to turn. The oncoming driver hit the car and ejected the plaintiff from the vehicle, causing serious, permanent injuries to the plaintiff.

The injured woman filed suit against the driver of the car in which she was riding and the driver of the car that hit her vehicle. The jury found the driver of her car liable but declined to find the other driver liable. The injured woman moved for a new trial against the other driver, but the trial court denied the motion, along with the motion to set aside the jury verdict because it was against the weight of the evidence.

During the voir dire phase of this trial, both sides were given 30 minutes to conduct voir dire. Seven members of the pool were seated on the jury on the first day with no objections. On the next day, both sides were allowed to ask one question of each potential juror, in addition to follow up questions. There was no objection to this by any attorney. On appeal, the injured woman raised the voir dire as an issue, claiming it unreasonably limited the time for the attorneys. The Appeals Court declined to agree, stating that the trial court has discretion in its method of conducting voir dire, as long as the discretion isn’t abused. The appellate court found that the injured woman did not suffer any prejudice from the judge’s limits because 5-6 questions were often allowed to be asked of each potential juror. Along with other raised issues, the plaintiff’s denied motion for a new trial was affirmed, and the jury verdict favoring the other driver was upheld.

A personal injury trial can be an intense, consuming experience. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at Karsner & Meehan are here to help you with your car accident case. Our office can aggressively pursue all of the damages available from any responsible parties. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 508-822-6600.

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