Jun 24

What is All This Talk About Opening Statements?

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Opening statements happen in almost all trial — not just the George Zimmerman trial. In our jury trial, we do opening statements whether the trial is about our client’s car accident, slip and fall or product liability cases. But, what is an Opening Statement and how can it be effectively used at trial.

In our automobile accident cases and other trials, we lawyers are not permitted to talk to the jury. We do get to ask questions during the jury selection process, but not actually talk to the potential jurors about the case. The Opening Statement is the first time the lawyers get to talk to the jury about the case. However, during the Opening Statement, the attorneys can only describe the case, they cannot argue the case. In fact, legal arguments are prohibited during the opening statement. The argument -trying to persuade the jury to see the case your way – is reserved for the Closing Arguments. During the Opening Statement, an attorney is restricted to stating the evidence (“Witness A will testify that Event X occurred”) as opposed to the ability to argue the merits of the evidence during Closing Argument (“As we heard from the witness, the traffic light was red before the car accident occurred.”).

The Opening Statement provides the basic scene for the jurors, introduce them to the core dispute(s) in the case, and provide a general road map of how the trial is expected to unfold. Although cases are not won or lost at Opening Statements, they do have a significant impact on how the jury will view the upcoming testimony and evidence. Opening Statements should not be taken lightly.

The party with the burden of proof presents the first Opening Statement. In criminal court, that would be the State. However, in our auto accident cases, we as Plaintiff’s counsel go first. Although either lawyer may choose not to present an opening statement, I have not seen that occur in my 25 years in personal injury law.

I often recommend that my clients sit and watch of jury trial similar to their type of case (client is car accident watch a auto accident jury trial; slip and fall Plaintiff watch a jury trial relating to someone falling). They are often amazed on how different it is than what they expected. Most of our society’s experience with the courtroom is what they see on television. However, a real jury trial is nothing like what is shown on TV. Trials (both criminal and civil) are open to the public so enjoy!

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Personal Injury Attorneys Matthew Noyes and Lorrie Robinson will take their clients’ case all the way to a jury trial if needed whether it be related to a car accident, motorcycle crash, bicycle accident, pedestrian accident and other types of personal injury matter. His Clearwater law firm – Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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