Georgia law allows personal injury claims to be heard in court before a full jury. But juries are made up of normal people who are not experts in the law, accident claims, or medicine. Many jurors will come with biases and some will not make fair decisions in your case. That’s why your lawyer (and the other side) is allowed to screen potential jurors and remove some. This process is called voir dire.
Voir dire is technically the second step of jury selection. First, a random pool of people are assembled—far more than the 12 needed in the courtroom. The judge may dismiss some of these people at random to make the process go faster. Once the jury pool is established, lawyers on both sides get to ask the jurors questions and choose to remove those they don’t think are appropriate. Removing a juror is called “striking” them.
There are two kinds of strikes your lawyer can use:
- Peremptory challenges. In a peremptory challenge, your lawyer can simply strike a juror, without having to give any reason. This is the most powerful form of strike, but your lawyer only has a limited amount they can use per case.
- Challenges for cause. In this form of challenge, your lawyer must give a reason why the juror is not suitable. For example, if the juror works for an insurance company than they would clearly be biased and you could challenge them for cause. Unfortunately, the judge may or may not agree with the challenge, and the other lawyer gets a chance to argue it. In many cases, challenges for cause will be denied.
Voir dire is an art form, and not all attorneys are good at it. The process of winning your case begins as soon as your lawyer enters the room with the jurors. If your lawyer is friendly, respectful, and talks to them in a conversational tone, they will already start to like your attorney and, by extension, have some sympathy for your side of the case. If your lawyer is brusque, or stands around looking through papers instead of talking to the jurors, they will not feel that your laywer respects them and they may develop prejudice against your claim. This is why it’s so important to choose an attorney who has experience in the courtroom and is willing to take time to properly vet the jury.
There is no substitute for a careful, strategic voir dire process. Your lawyer should ask questions that are carefully crafted to get jurors speaking honestly about their beliefs, without seeming too personal. The types of questions they use will depend on whether your case is a car accident, pedestrian accident, dangerous or defective drug, slip and fall or other type of injury. The more experienced your lawyer is, the more they can do with the selection process.
Have you been involved in an accident? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.