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For criminal defendants, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The historical precedent for a jury trial, though, dates back centuries and was addressed in the Magna Carta in the early 13th Century. Beyond its application in the criminal justice system, it is also a major component of civil court proceedings as well, as most civil claimants have the right to demand that their matter be heard by a jury. This generally applies to personal injury lawsuits as well, including auto accidents, product liability, and medical malpractice.
Why a Jury Trial?
A large majority of personal injury clams are settled long before the trial stage; however, a claimant’s right to trial still exists. Those that do make it into the courtroom most often prefer to have their case by a jury of their peers rather than just by a judge alone—called a bench trial. While statistical evidence on the subject does not necessarily support the idea, claimants tend to believe that a jury of regular people is more inclined to agree with their own points of view, while understanding their situations. Similarly, they are willing to place their trust in the decision of a larger group, rather than the findings of a single person.
Six-Person Jury in Illinois Civil Cases
In Illinois, many civil jury trials, including those for personal injury claims, were permitted to be heard by a panel of six jurors for many years. However, if the claim for damages exceeded $50,000 or by demand of either party in the case, a jury of 12 was required.
Late last year, outgoing Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill to limit civil juries to a six-person panel in all cases. Taking effect this past June, the law was purportedly aimed at saving municipalities time and money in selecting and paying larger juries, and reducing the size of preliminary juror pools. Reaction to the measure has been mixed, as many are critical of the decrease of diversity possible in a smaller jury. There is also concern than a smaller jury panel may be more easily swayed or influenced by the strong personality of a single juror.
The six-juror limitation will not apply to cases filed prior to June 1, 2015. It remains to be seen how the change will affect verdict patterns in jury trials over the next few years, but few think the financial savings will actually be realized.
Discuss Your Options Today
If you have been injured and would like to know more about filing a claim for compensation, contact an experienced Hinsdale personal injury attorney. At Martoccio & Martoccio, we are committed to helping injured clients collect the damages they deserve, both through settlements and, when necessary, bench or jury trials. Call 630-920-8855 to schedule your free consultation.