What happens during a civil trial?

After the clerk or bailiff has sworn in the jury, the case is ready to begin. Both attorneys may make opening statements explaining their client's position and outlining the evidence they expect to present that will support their claims. These statements are not evidence and should not be considered as such. The witnesses for the plaintiff are then called and questioned by the attorney for the plaintiff and cross-examined by the attorney for the defendant. After cross-examination, the plaintiff's attorney may reexamine some of the witnesses. After all the plaintiff's witnesses have been called and all the plaintiff's evidence has been presented, the attorney will tell the judge that the plaintiff rests.

Witnesses for the defendant may then be called. This time, the defendant's attorney questions the witnesses and the plaintiff's attorney cross-examines them. When all the defendant's witnesses and evidence have been presented, the defense will rest. After the defendant has finished, the plaintiff has the right to offer testimony in reply.

The judge and the attorneys will then go to the judge's chambers to consider the instructions the judge will give the jurors about the law of the case (this is discussed below). After the judge has decided on the instructions, the judge and the attorneys will return to the courtroom. The judge reads the jury instructions to the jury, and then the attorneys make their closing arguments. The closing arguments let each attorney tell the jury what they think the evidence proves and why their client should win. These closing arguments may help jurors recall many details of the case, but they are not evidence. The plaintiff's attorney speaks first, followed by the defendant's attorney. Finally, the plaintiff's attorney speaks again and closes the case.

Show All Answers

1. What are my responsibilities now that I’m part of a jury?
2. What is a “question of law”?
3. What is a “question of fact”?
4. Who else will be in the courtroom? What will they be doing?
5. What happens during a civil trial?
6. What are Jury Instructions?
7. Who awards damages in a civil case?
8. How are criminal cases tried?
9. What are the two types of criminal cases?
10. Who sets the punishment in a criminal case?
11. Why do the attorneys object to certain statements or evidence?
12. Why is the jury sometimes asked to leave the courtroom in the middle of a trial?
13. What should I do when testimony is stricken from the record?
14. Can I talk to anyone about the trial while it is going on?
15. Can I watch news reports of the trial or read newspaper accounts of it?
16. What if I accidentally hear something about the trial outside the courtroom, or if someone contacts me about the trial while it is still going on, or if I realize during the trial that I have some spe
17. What if I need a break during the trial?