You suffer a severe injury in a car accident and hire a car injury attorney. Let’s say that you live in Clifton, New Jersey. The accident took place on Route 20. The other driver, who was at fault, lives in Paterson.
Because all parties involved are from Passaic County, and the accident took place there, your car injury attorney files a lawsuit on your behalf in the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson.
For the next year, as doctors and therapists treat you, your car injury attorney negotiates with the other driver’s insurance company. Negotiations continue even after you finish treatment and therapy. However, the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement. One that will adequately compensate you for your pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of quality of life and medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Accordingly, your car injury lawyer takes the case to trial. Jury selection begins. During jury selection, each side can eliminate jurors who do not seem fair and impartial. Questions are posed to potential jurors to determine if the jurors are, in fact, impartial and fair.
HOW YOUR CAR INJURY ATTORNEY CAN QUESTION POTENTIAL JURORS
In New Jersey, unlike in some states, lawyers don’t get to ask potential jurors questions directly. Rather, the trial judge questions the jurors.
Nonetheless, New Jersey court rules do allow lawyers to request that the judge ask prospective jurors several open-ended questions formulated by the lawyers. (By “open-ended,” I mean questions that would normally call for an extended answer, rather than a simple “yes” or “no.”)
In order to make sure that you receive a fair jury, your car accident lawyer submits several such open-ended questions to the judge and requests that the judge ask them to the potential jurors. But the judge refuses. Eventually, the jury selected comes back with a verdict against you.
Did the judge’s refusal to ask the potential jurors the proposed open-ended questions deprive you of a fair trial? If so, are you therefore due a new trial in front of a new jury?
A similar scenario occurred in an actual New Jersey court case recently. According to the ruling in that case by a panel of New Jersey appeals judges, your trial wouldn’t have been fair, and you WOULD be entitled to a new trial.
At your second trial, the jury will be fair, and you will finally receive justice.