Jury Trials in Civil Cases
In August 2017, two men rented a boat in Dunedin from Pirate’s Cove Boat Club. About two hours into their fishing trip, the boat began taking on water in allegedly shark-infested waters. They say the boat wasn’t equipped with a radio or working flares. They called 911, and a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office marine crew rescued them after the boat sank.
They recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Dunedin boat club, claiming it was negligent not to provide a radio or working flares. They also claim the club didn’t make sure the bilge pump was working properly or instruct them how to safely operate the boat. The men are seeking more than $15,000 in damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. They are also demanding a jury trial.
Do I Have a Right to a Jury Trial in a Civil Case?
Most people probably know that they have a right to a jury trial in a criminal case. But do you have that same right in civil cases?
The short answer is yes. Personal injury victims have a constitutional right to a trial by jury, under both state and federal law. But, like the men who are suing the boat club, you have to specifically demand a jury trial. It doesn’t just happen.
Here are a few other things to understand about your right to a jury trial and jury selection:
- Demand a jury trial in your initial complaint or within 10 days. Otherwise the right is considered waived.
- Defendants can also demand a jury trial.
- The court may decide to reopen the window for demanding a jury trial.
- During jury selection (also called voir dire), the parties have a right to examine the potential jurors (reasonably). The goal is to weed out biased jurors. Traditionally, the plaintiff gets to question jurors first in civil cases.
- Potential jurors are stricken if they have any interest in the case (like if it’s a relative or friend of the victim or defendant), they have an opinion on what the outcome should be, they are biased or prejudiced toward one of the parties, or they otherwise aren’t indifferent to the case.
- There are specific rules related to peremptory challenges, which are used when the parties can’t prove that the juror should be stricken for cause. Generally each party gets three peremptory challenges.
These are only a few examples of what you need to know about your right to a jury trial. An experienced attorney can explain your rights and help you decide whether a jury is a good idea in your case.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Tampa personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you are injured by an act of negligence. We will help you seek compensation for your injuries and guide you through the litigation process, including whether to demand a jury trial and what to expect during jury selection.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.