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What should I know about New York City civil courts?

If you are pursuing a personal injury claim in a New York City civil court, sometimes the defendant(s) or their insurance companies may tender an acceptable settlement offer in order to conclude the case. In other cases, such as a serious car accident where disabling or life-threatening injuries were suffered, one or both of the parties may refuse to settle and the litigation proceeds to the trial phase.

Some cases are heard by a judge and others by a jury. Either the plaintiff or the defendant or their respective attorneys must file a jury demand and pay the fee in order for the judge to set the case for trial. The jury will then be selected through a process called voir dire where the Court examines jurors and their qualifications. Both litigants are allowed to challenge jurors for cause if they are unqualified for reasons such as being a relative of one of the parties, an inability to be impartial in the matter or an unwillingness to follow the law. Both parties also are allowed some peremptory challenges before six jurors and additional alternates are chosen for the case.

The trial begins with the plaintiff's case. Witnesses are sworn in and the plaintiff's version of events is presented. Any relevant evidence such as pictures or documents are offered as exhibits of evidence.

After the attorney for the plaintiff has introduced the testimony of each witness, the defense attorney can cross-examine them on the witness stand. Following the cross, plaintiff's attorney can keep them on the stand to redirect their testimony regarding issues divulged during cross-examination. Once the plaintiff's attorney rests his case, the defense presents their alternative version of the incident, followed by a cross-examination and possible redirect examination.

When the defense rests, the plaintiff's attorney may present evidence in a rebuttal of the defendant's case. Then the judge charges the jury with their responsibility to determine the outcome of the case based on the evidence presented and applicable state laws. Juries that deadlock in their deliberations are referred to as "hung juries." Judges then declare mistrials and cases may be retried with another jury at a later date.

Further questions about the trial process may be directed to a New York City legal professional for clarification.

Source: NYCourts.gov, "New York City Civil Court" Sep. 17, 2014

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