Bifurcated Trials And The Trucking Industry
The term “bifurcated” means something like “split into two”. A bifurcated trial is thus a trial that has been split into two trials. The first trial seeks to establish liability or negligence, while the second trial is only to decide on damages. Recently, a piece of legislation passed in Texas sought to bifurcate trials involving the trucking industry. In other words, first, there would be a trial to determine whether or not the trucking company is negligent. After the jury returned a verdict on the defendant’s negligence, then the second phase of the trial would begin. During that phase, the plaintiff would argue as to the extent of their damages.
Understanding bifurcated trials
A plaintiff can request that a trial be bifurcated in cases where there is some question as to liability. Splitting the trial into two trials allows an attorney to prepare the negligence case against the defendant, which can be quite expensive. Usually, when there are expert witnesses and other expenses, those come out of the plaintiff’s cut of the money. Hence, it could save the plaintiff money to bifurcate the trial if there is some question as to whether or not the defendant should be liable.
In Texas, the legislature has recently passed legislation that would require all personal injury lawsuits against the trucking industry to be bifurcated into two trials. Why? Well, according to the trucking industry, they are losing billions each year in personal injury lawsuits. Civil defense attorneys are decrying the work of personal injury lawyers who inflame the righteous rage of the jury against grossly negligent defendants. This has resulted, according to the trucking industry and their lobbyists, in “nuclear” verdicts against the trucking industry that imperil American logistics.
Truck accident lawsuits and bifurcated trials
In Texas, all trials that name a trucking company as a defendant would automatically be bifurcated into two trials. Before the jury was able to know the name of the defendant or the plaintiff’s attorney was able to introduce evidence against the defendant, a determination would be made as to whether or not their driver was negligent for the accident.
Most truck accident verdicts don’t make the local news. An otherwise good truck driver may make a moving violation that causes an injury to a driver. However, if the jury knows that a certain trucking company has been in the news for causing accidents that killed multiple commuters, the jury may not want to listen to the defendant’s story about how they really had the right of way. This, according to civil defense attorneys, is costing the trucking company too much money.
That being said, this isn’t a huge loss for potential plaintiffs. Once it has been determined that the trucking company’s driver was negligent, the plaintiff’s attorney can introduce evidence against the trucking company and their safety record. Hence, they can still demonize the trucking company during the second phase of the trial.
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The Miami personal injury attorneys at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. represent the interests of injured plaintiffs. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.