how juries are chosen

While we strive to settle most personal injury claims outside of court to ensure our clients get the compensation they need sooner, this isn’t always possible. When insurance companies simply refuse to cooperate, that’s when we go to trial.

The outcomes of civil trials, just like criminal trials, are typically determined by juries. Which means the jury selection process is possibly the most important part of any personal injury trial.

If you end up with a jury that is biased against people filing personal injury lawsuits, it could hurt your chances of getting the compensation you dearly need. Luckily, jury members are not decided at random. A skilled attorney can ensure the people who wind up on your jury are ready to be fair and thoughtful when listening to your injury claim.

What Happens During Jury Selection?

As many as 100 people could be called up for jury duty out of the “jury pool” of eligible jurors (U.S. citizens over the age of 18) living in the summoning county. However, all 100 people won’t be selected to serve on the jury. The number of jurors who will actually determine your settlement is typically 12 people.

Who is eligible to be called for jury duty in South Carolina?

People cannot serve on a jury if they:

  • Have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year
  • Cannot read, write, speak, or understand English
  • Have a physical or mental limitation that prevents them from serving
  • Have less than a 6th grade education
  • Are employed by the county or court

People cannot be required to serve on a jury if they:

  • Are over 65 years of age
  • Are employed by the penitentiary
  • Have legal custody of children under the age of 7 that they can’t find alternative care for while serving
  • Have a “good and sufficient excuse,” such as a temporary physical disability

From the jury pool, potential jurors are whittled down through the jury selection process, which consists of the judge asking potential jurors questions to determine whether or not they are capable of being a fair and unbiased juror.

Unlike most other states, attorneys in South Carolina are not allowed to directly question jurors themselves, but they are allowed to submit a list of questions they would like the judge to ask the jurors and listen to the answers.

After all potentially biased jurors are removed, 20 of the remaining jurors are selected at random, and lawyers from both sides are each allowed to pick four jurors to remove, leaving the 12 who will serve on your case.

What Type of Questions are Asked in Jury Selection?

Because questions during jury selection are supposed to root out potential biases, common questions include:

  • Have you ever worked for an insurance company? Has any member of your family?
  • Have you ever filed a personal injury claim? Has any member of your family?
  • Do you personally know any of the parties involved in this lawsuit?

Answering “yes” to any of these questions is good reason to remove a juror, since they are unlikely to be impartial.

Jurors will also likely be asked questions related to the type of accident. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, they might be asked “are you familiar with the intersection where the accident happened?” or “do you think most people are good drivers, and why or why not?”

If you were injured by slipping in a restaurant, jurors might be asked “have you ever worked in a restaurant before?” or they might be asked “do you think someone injured in an accident always shares in the blame?”

Jurors might also be asked questions about their personal lives and tastes to see if these could indicate a bias in any way.

We Know How to Pick Juries

Because the jury selection process is so important, it’s absolutely vital to make sure your lawyer knows what they are doing if your case goes to trial. Personal injury lawyers without a lot of experience in the courtroom could hurt your chances of winning before the trial even starts, if they don’t know the right questions to ask during jury selection.

At Joye Injury Lawyers, we have over 50 years of experience helping injury victims get the compensation they deserve when they’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, and we aren’t afraid to go to court when necessary. Contact our South Carolina personal injury lawyers today to learn more about what we can do for you.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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