Depending on which county your case is brought in the state of New York, you may have to go through what is called a bifurcated trial. A number of people may be confused as to what this means. At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., our New York City personal injury lawyers understand bifurcated trials and have the experience to take your case to trial, whether the trial is bifurcated or not.
New York breaks down trials into one of two formats, depending on the venue of your case and whether or not the case settles before trial. The first is a unified trial where all matters are determined in one continuous proceeding where both liability and damages are decided by the jury at the same time.
The Liability Phase and the Damages Phase
In a bifurcated trial, the trial is broken up into two separate phases. The first is the liability phase, when the jury decides whether or not the defendant is liable and should be responsible for damages sustained by the plaintiff. The jury does not get to hear about the injuries or damages to the plaintiff in the liability phase of a bifurcated trial because it could influence the jury’s decision on whether to find the defendant liable. If the defendant is found liable, the trial will move forward to the damages phase.
During the damages phase, both sides will present evidence and witnesses to help prove the value of the damages. This generally includes evidence to show how badly injured the plaintiff is and how much pain and suffering they have gone through and will go through, how much they have incurred, and will incur, in medical expenses, and how much they have lost, and will lose, from earnings as a result of not being able to work. The jury will then make a decision regarding the amount of compensation to award. Bifurcated trials are very common throughout the New York metropolitan area because certain counties require them.
Benefits of a Bifurcated Trial
A bifurcated trial can be beneficial to the plaintiff. Because liability is decided first, if the defendant is found liable, they may be more willing to negotiate a more sizable settlement or pay the amount already demanded to avoid the risk of a larger verdict in the damages portion of the trial.
New York County (Manhattan) and Bronx County — which make up the First Department — use unified trials. The Second Department uses bifurcated trials. This department includes Nassau County, Suffolk County, Putnam County, Kings County (Brooklyn), Queens County, Rockland County, Richmond County (Staten Island), Orange County, Westchester County, and Dutchess County. In Kings County, if the City of New York is a defendant, the trial is unified.