After your work injury, you know you have some sort of right to legal action. On TV and in the movies, people have their cases tried before a jury. In real life, however, things don't always work out that way. Below, we'll outline the answers to the following questions for non-subscriber work injury cases:
- Will a jury decide my case?
- What circumstances would a judge, not a jury, handle my case?
- What is an arbitrator?
Want to know more about how the law that governs this works? Click on over to our Comprehensive Guide to Non-Subscriber Injury Law to get the scoop.
Also, keep in mind that what we'll be discussing in this article applies only to non-subscriber work injury cases. If your employer subscribes to workers' comp, you can read more about those types of cases here.
Most non-subscriber injury cases go before a jury if they don't settle.
The right to a jury is enshrined in our Constitution. It's the last, great hope for what you deserve in the civil justice system. It's 12 people seemingly chosen at random from all walks of life who decide your case. Even if you've never served on a jury, someone close to you has. White, black, rich, poor, and in between---doesn't matter, you could get chosen to serve. In the majority of cases that don't settle, it's the jury that decides who's responsible for your accident, and how much you deserve in compensation.
Why would you want your case to go in front of a jury? As we'll discuss, having your case heard by a judge or an arbitrator presents a unique set of challenges that aren't always resolved in favor of the victim. While, like we said, members of a jury come from all walks of life, many of them are going to be people just like you. People who understand that companies have a duty to protect their workers from harm, and should be held responsible when they're negligent in carrying out that duty.
Judges can decide these cases, but only if the parties consent.
If you and your lawyer feel that it would be better to have a judge decide your case, you can. But the defendant must, under the rules of court, agree to it as well.
Why would you ever want a judge to hear your case and not a jury? In more technical cases, your attorneys and the defendant's lawyers might agree that it'd be fairer to submit your case to a judge because 12 regular folks might have a hard time understanding the issues. This is much more common in cases like business disputes between large technology companies fighting over patents than it is in non-subscriber work injury cases.
Here's another example of when you might want to take your case before a judge, as opposed to a jury: Let's say that you're involved in a car accident caused by another driver. The other driver accepts responsibility, but doesn't think you should be compensated as much as you think you do. So the two of you have agreed on who's liable for the accident, but decide to let a judge decide the amount of damages that should be awarded.
In many cases, however, judges are seen as being from a different segment of society than many of those who might find themselves the victim of a non-subscriber work injury, and typically less willing to look favorably on those types of accidents. Because of this, jury trials are still seen as a plaintiff's best bet following a non-subscriber work injury.
If you signed an arbitration agreement when you were hired, your case could likely be heard by an arbitrator.
Buried in all those papers you signed when you went to work with your employer may well be what's known as an "arbitration agreement." This means that if a situation ever arises in which you think you would need to take legal action against your employer, you've waived your right to a jury trial and agreed to have your case heard in private before an arbitrator. This person, usually a retired judge, hears all of the evidence and decides who was in the wrong for the accident and how much you should (or shouldn't) receive.
While there are situations in which arbitrators may be seen as the logical choice for an employee, they're typically seen as being the smart move for employers. Many arbitrators are former lawyers, and know how to write ironclad contracts. Also, it's important to realize that when a dispute is brought before an arbitrator, that arbitrator is being paid for by your employer. Does this mean that all arbitrators are corrupt and that the deck is hopelessly stacked against the little guy? Well, no. But it does raise the concern that the arbitrator may be less than willing to bite the hand that feeds him.
Arbitration happens out of the public eye, and is usually much quicker in getting resolved. Plus, and this isn't always true, but arbitrators typically award less money than juries. This is why your employer slipped that agreement in your contract in the first place. If you're involved in a non-subscriber work accident and it's brought to your attention that you, in fact, signed an arbitration agreement, you're going to want an attorney's help. A thorough attorney will examine your arbitration agreement for one simple reason: sometimes they can be tossed out. If they're poorly written, sometimes judges won't enforce them. This will give you and your lawyer the chance to decide what's best for you.
Before any judge, jury, or arbitrator, you need the right lawyer.
The lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have 25 years of experience with non-subscriber cases. We know the nuances of the law that governs them, and can craft your case accordingly. There's a lot more to how your case is going to work than we could ever explain on a blog post, so don't hesitate to get your free and confidential consultation from us at 1-855-326-0000.