The Role of the Judge in a Personal Injury Case

Oversized Gavel in front of Courthouse

In life, the last place you want to end up is a Denver courtroom locked in a personal injury case, but sometimes that decision isn’t ours to make. And while we all seem to have an idea of a judge’s role in deciding cases - we’ve all seen “Judge Judy” - but what exactly is a judge’s role in a personal injury case?

Normally a personal injury case by default will be decided by a trial judge in what is referred to as a, “bench trial.” However, there are several circumstance in which either the litigant (the person suing) or the defendant (the person being sued) can request a trial by jury for example, in this case the role of a judge will be a little different. In order to determine whether your personal injury case will be determined by judge or jury a few of the following will need to be considered:

Amount in Controversy

One of the most important determining factors in whether your case will be a judge or jury is the amount in damages demanded. Some states have a threshold amount (referred to as the “Amount in Controversy”) at which the litigant is given the right to request a jury.

If the case reaches the amount in controversy and the litigant does not request a trial by jury, the defense has the right to make this request as well.

Other Factors

Other things that will influence judge or jury determining a case which include:

  • The nature of the injury and the amount of potential damages
  • The background of the plaintiff and other witnesses in the case
  • The background of the judge involved in the case

So we established what might make your personal injury case decided by either a judge or jury, but what’s a judge’s role in both kinds of cases?

Trial by Jury

In this setting the role of the judge is as trier of law, meaning he or she is the one responsible in making sure the trial takes place in an orderly and impartial manner. The judge will simply preside over the case and listen to objections raised and sustain or overrule them. In this setting the jury are the ones who are presented evidence and decide who wins the case.

Bench Trial

In a bench trial where no jury is required, it is the judge who serves as both trier of law and trier of fact, meaning not only does he or she maintain that the trial is orderly and impartial, but the judge also makes the final verdict. These are the types of trials you can easily picture thanks to daytime television, where the judge hears and considers the evidence and testimonies and then renders a decision (but probably in real life they don’t make verbal zingers or use catchphrases).

If you find yourself wrapped up in a personal injury case either as a plaintiff or defendant and have any questions, contact one of Team Dave Logan's trusted Personal Injury Attorneys today!