The Decline of Civil Jury Trials – What This Means for Litigants, and Why Trial Lawyers are Still Critical


The Decline of Civil Jury Trials – What this Means for Litigants, and Why Trial Lawyers are Still Critical

Over the last one hundred years, the percentage of civil cases resolved by jury verdicts has declined dramatically.  This may sound counter-intuitive in light of stories about “run-away” juries and politicians demanding “tort reform,” but the fact is that today in the United States, significantly less than 5% of civil cases are tried before a jury (and less than 1% of cases are resolved by a jury in federal court cases).

Most civil cases today are resolved through settlement negotiations, arbitration, and through successful motions (such as summary judgment motions).  Because of the decline in jury trials, some might think that experienced trial lawyers are not critical when filing a civil case.  This belief is not correct.

The Reason that Trial Lawyers Are Critical in Civil Lawsuits

So, why does having an experienced trial lawyer matter if most cases settle?  For two reasons.

First, the other side will know if you have an experienced trial lawyer.  If the other side doesn’t believe that your lawyer has the experience and courage to take a case to trial, they will likely offer far less to settle a case.  If the other side knows that the opposing lawyer is not afraid of a trial and has the skill to win, a fair settlement is much more likely.

Of course, an experienced trial lawyer is critical if your case does not settle before trial.  If your family or your company are at stake, you don’t want to rely on someone who has not been there frequently.

Positioning Your Case for Success at Trial

Experienced trial lawyers often will take a different approach at the outset of a litigation matter than lawyers who expect that their case will settle.  As experienced trial lawyers, we treat every case as though it will go to trial.  As such, we undertake the difficult and meticulous work beginning at the outset of a case, and carefully build up the case of our clients piece-by-piece, through serving interrogatories (questions that must be answered under oath), taking depositions, and engaging in detailed discovery.  We do not believe in waiting until a mediation or settlement is not successful and a trial appears imminent to begin engaging in the difficult and time-consuming matters to build the cases for our clients.

This approach not only assures that we, and our clients, will be well-prepared for trial, it also means that we will be fully prepared for settlement negotiations, as well as in mediation (which often is mandatory).

We do not go into mediations unprepared in hopes that a settlement will be reached.  As we are continuously preparing for trial, the opposing party will know full-well that if they choose not to accept a settlement offer approved by our clients, they can expect that we will take them to trial and let a jury determine the outcome of a case.


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