Mitchell Lattof | June 10, 2020 | Alabama Law
Many people view jury duty as an inconvenience. People miss work and need to rearrange their schedules to accommodate jury duty. In some cases, they may lose income because they serve on jury duty.
However, jury duty is one of the most important obligations that Americans have as citizens of the United States. The United States Constitution ensures the right to a jury trial in most civil cases, as well as in criminal cases.
Amendment VII to the U.S. Constitution states that individuals who file lawsuits at common law have a right to trial by jury in cases that involve a disputed value of $20 or more.
Most personal injury claims involve values that greatly exceed the $20 value to guarantee the right to a jury trial. Therefore, you have the right to a jury trial related to car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and other cases involving injury or harm to a person.
What Do Jurors Do?
Jurors are the deciders of fact. They determine the facts in the case from the evidence presented during a trial. They consider that evidence and the law as instructed by a judge to return a “verdict” or decision.
Trials are necessary to settle disputes when the parties cannot negotiate a settlement. The right to file a personal injury lawsuit and proceed to a trial is crucial. Insurance companies and parties at fault for causing injuries would not negotiate in good faith without the threat of civil lawsuits.
Who Can Serve as a Juror in Alabama?
The court chooses jurors from residents who live within the county where the trial is held. The requirements to serve as a juror in Alabama are:
- United States Citizens;
- Who are 12-month residents of the county in which the court is located;
- Have reached the minimum age of 19 years;
- Can speak, read, and understand the English language;
- Is mentally and physically capable; and,
- Have not been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude that resulted in the loss of the person’s right to vote.
Jurors must be on time and dress appropriately. The clerk of court’s office for the court typically provides guidance about dress code and sets the time for jurors to arrive. The clerk’s office also provides jurors with information regarding where to report and where to park.
Depending on the court, individuals may be required to report one to five days. However, once a person is selected to serve on a jury, that person serves until the case concludes.
What Happens if a Person Does Not Show up For Jury Duty?
A jury summons is a legal requirement to appear in court. If you fail to appear in court, an order to show cause is issued by the judge. The order requires the person to appear in court to explain why the court should not hold the person in contempt.
If you are found in contempt of court, you can be fined up to $300 and serve up to 10 days in county jail. However, if you appear and offer a reasonable excuse for why you failed to appear in court, the judge may dismiss the content charges.
How Do I Get Out of Jury Duty in Alabama?
The court recognizes that people may not be able to serve on jury duty during the week they are chosen for jury duty. If you have a valid reason for not serving on jury duty during that session, the court may postpone your service to another court session. However, the court does not excuse your service merely because you do not want to be a juror.
Jury Duty for Personal Injury Cases
The majority of personal injury cases settle without a lawsuit. Of those few that do end up filing a complaint, most still end up settling before a trial occurs. Only a small percentage of personal injury cases ever see a jury trial.
Why is this? Part of the reason lies in the fact that most personal injury attorneys are skilled at negotiating the best possible settlement for a personal injury claim.
An attorney aggressively investigates the cause of the injury and gathers evidence proving fault. Strong and overwhelming evidence proving fault increases your chance of recovering full compensation for injuries and damages.
Also, careful documentation of your losses and damages increases your chance of receiving maximum compensation for an injury claim. Your attorney works with you and your medical providers to gather evidence of the extent of your injuries and damages. Documentation of injuries and damages is also critical to recovering fair compensation for your injuries.
If an insurance company or other party refuses to negotiate in good faith to arrive at a fair settlement amount, your attorney may advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean there will be a trial. Many lawsuits settle before the matter reaches a trial.