Jury Trials and Bench Trials: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

If you have been involved in a personal injury accident and are considering suing the at-fault party, you might be wondering about the pros and cons of taking the case to trial versus settling it. The right answer to that and other questions will depend largely on the specifics of your case. You might also wonder: if it does go to trial, what is the difference between a bench trial and a jury trial? Read on to get the answer to that question, and then contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 with any other questions you have.

The Facts About a Jury Trial

In a jury trial, you will face anywhere from six to twelve people on a jury (depending on the specifics of your case), and they will make the final decision about the case after they have heard all the evidence presented by your personal injury attorney and the defendant’s attorney. The judge will be in the room but only to control the presentation of evidence, to decide on any legal issues that arise during the trial, and to provide instructions to the jury. The jury will be the ones to decide whose version of the story to believe.

The Facts About Bench Trials

A bench trial involves a judge making the final decision after they have heard all of the evidence in the case. In most cases, the judge who proceeds over the trial is the same judge that was assigned the case when it was filed. A bench trial comes down to the “vote” of just one person – the judge – but that person has a much better understanding of the law compared to the average jury member.

Basic Statistics on Bench and Jury Trials

To better understand how these cases work, consider that according to one study by the United States Bureau of Justice, juries decide about 70% of civil trials. Plaintiffs win about 66% of bench trials and about 53% of jury trials. A jury trial, on average, lasts about two days longer than a bench trial. Interestingly, the study found that the average damages awarded were fairly similar for both types of trials.

Not All Situations Allow You to Choose the Type of Trial You Have

Many people know that the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution grants the right for a person to a jury trial in lawsuits in which money is involved. However, that amendment only applies to federal courts, which means that you might or might not have the option. In California, you generally do have the option of choosing a jury or bench trial. Your personal injury attorney will help you determine the right option based on your case. Contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 now for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.