What are Questions of Law?
Almost everyone with a TV or library card has seen or read a courtroom drama. The scenes in these works that tend to be most compelling involve lawyers duking it out via questions and arguments in front of the 12 jurors. But contrary to what you might expect, some of a personal injury case's key moments happen outside of the jury's presence. Instead, these occur only in front of a judge whose job is to decide questions of law.
Below, we'll explain what this means and how it comes into play in personal injury cases.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What are questions of law in a personal injury case?
- What is the difference between questions of law and questions of fact?
- What decides questions of law under Texas law?
Juries decide facts, while courts decide the law.
As we discussed in the questions of fact page, jurors are tasked with deciding whose witnesses, evidence, and stories are more credible. For example, if one witness says you slipped and fell in a store because you were just being clumsy while another claims to have seen a puddle of water in front of you, the jury must weigh the testimony and decide whom they believe. These are classic questions of fact.
Judges must decide the law. By this we mean, judges decide matters like which laws apply to the case, whether evidence is legally permitted to be presented to the jury, and whether each litigant has provided sufficient evidence for their claims or defenses that they can be allowed to go to trial. Some examples of what we're talking about:
- Prior to trial, a defendant files a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to dismiss the plaintiff's claims because there's no evidence the defendant contributed to the accident. Unless the plaintiff can then produce some evidence that the defendant may have been at fault, the court will dismiss the plaintiff's claim as a matter of law.
- In the middle of a trial, the plaintiff offers into evidence a vivid photograph of the accident scene in which the victim can be seen bloodied and battered. The defendant objects, citing a rule of evidence that stands for the proposition that evidence must not be unduly inflammatory.
- Before the case is finally sent to the jury, the attorneys and the judge must meet to discuss the "jury charge," which is the instruction to the jury on what the actual law is and what they must decide. The judge must ultimately decide what the charge will be.
What are some of the questions of law that the court decides?
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that only the court can answer:
- Who has the right to sue?
- Is the alleged misconduct described grounds to sue?
- Is there a limit on how much someone can recover?
- What arguments should an accused defendant be allowed to use in order to defend themselves?
- How should certain laws and statutes be interpreted?
- How similar is the situation at hand to the nature of the original law?
- What fact questions should the jury be asked to answer?
- Is it proper to plead a case one way or the other?
- Is some novel theory of liability valid?
As you can see, these don't include questions like: "How much should the defendant be made to pay?", "Who is at fault and to what extent?" These are questions of fact, and must be answered by the jury.
To win before the judge, you need an experienced attorney.
We've argued questions of law before judges literally thousands of times. It takes experience, skill, and hard work to be successful. When it comes to your case, why would you hire an attorney who can't claim the successes we've had?
Call us today at (855) 326-0000 for more information.
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