Indio personal injury trial lawyer Barry Regar explains the Voir Dire process of selecting a jury to hear a civil case involving a Coachella Valley car accident victim's attempt to recover reasonable damages from a negligent driver. Before a jury of twelve Riverside County residents are empanelled to sit on a civil jury, the lawyer for the Plaintiff, the person suing, and the lawyer for the defendant, the person being sued are supposed to be given the opportunity to question the prospective jurors to see if they are free of any bias or prejudice that would disqualify these persons from sitting on the jury. This questioning procedure is called, "voir dire".
The California Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5 provides that the attorneys for each party shall have the right to examine the prospective jurors by oral and direct questioning so that they can intelligently exercise both peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. This code section further states that, "the trial judge should permit liberal and probing examination calculated to discover bias or prejudice with regard to the circumstances of the particular case." This code section does not dictate the length of the voir dire process to be allowed by a judge. However, Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5 does state that, "specific unreasonable or arbitrary time limits shall not be imposed"
So what is really going on while the lawyers are asking the prospective jurors questions that seem to a lay person to be inane and much too personal? The lawyer for each side of the dispute is merely trying to find out if the person being questioned can be fair to the lawyer's client. We all know that the people that are called to sit on a jury trial don't want to be in court earning a few bucks a day plus mileage. The seats are uncomfortable and the temperature in the courtroom never seems to be warm enough or cold enough. Add to that the jury trial process is filled with long delays and often boring testimony from witnesses. Having said that, it is still is a fact that the United States system of justice is the fairest and most reasonable in the world.
What happens all too often in some of our Riverside County courtrooms is that some judges seem to ignore California Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5 and impose an unrealistic time limit on the attorneys for the voir dire process. This time limitation makes it very difficult for the lawyers to ferret out those jurors that hold a bias or prejudice that should mandate that the judge excuse that particular prospective juror for, "cause". When a judge excuses a prospective juror for cause, it means that the person gave answers to questions asked by the lawyers that revealed reasons such as a bias or prejudice that would make that juror favor one side or the other even before hearing any evidence or the jury instructions that explain the law that is applicable to any particular case. In all the years that I have been asking prospective jurors questions during the voir dire process in civil jury trials in the Riverside County courtrooms I have rarely encountered individuals that didn't have some bias or prejudice that needed to be brought to light in the voir dire questioning process. Often a juror honest enough to admit to favoring one side or the other before hearing any evidence will not automatically be excused by a judge for cause because the judge wants to move the case along and not take any more time picking the jury. A judge may hear a prospective juror admit to not liking Coachella Valley personal injury trial lawyers representing injured plaintiffs. Of course that person should not be allowed to sit on that kind of case. Yet the judge may go ahead and ask that person, "In spite of your feelings, do you think you could still be fair to both sides"? The person being questioned may then become embarrassed and answer that, "yes I still can be fair to both sides". That answer does not remove the taint of obvious bias toward the defense side of the case. So now the lawyer representing the plaintiff, the injured party, must use what is known as a, "peremptory challenge". A lawyer may exercise a peremptory challenge against a prospective juror for any reason at all. The lawyer may not like the fact that the juror has a wife that works as an insurance adjuster who would be a horrible juror on a personal injury case which almost always involve an insurance company paying the bills even though a jury is not supposed to know that fact. This subject has been a subject of a blog by Barry Regar. Each side of the case has six such challenges to use on prospective jurors when a lawyer feels that Mr. X would be a bad juror for his client's case.
Whether the person suing was a Palm Desert slip and fall victim, or a Palm Springs car accident victim, the innocent accident victim is suing the negligent person or business entity for money damages. Some people don't believe that people should be able to be awarded money damages for such things as, "pain and suffering". Obviously a person with that mindset would not be a proper juror in a personal injury case which is about holding a wrongdoer accountable for the injuries inflicted on another person. If the judge doesn't follow California case law and excuse such a person for, "cause", then the lawyer representing the plaintiff seeking money damages will have to use one of his six peremptory challenges and get rid of the juror who would not award money damages to a deserving innocent accident victim harmed by the negligence of another person who is covered by liability insurance even though the lawyers are not allowed to bring out that fact during the trial.
If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault and you are unwilling to accept that "lowball", settlement offer made by the not so friendly insurance adjuster, you should contact the lawyer at the firm of Barry Regar A Professional Law Corporation. Some cases need to go to court and be decided by a jury of responsible and fair citizens of Riverside County. This firm has many years of experience in selecting fair jurors and winning jury trials for its clients. Call or email the firm for the help you need.