America Was Founded on Trial by Jury–So Why Does No One Try Cases?
In America, trial by jury is among the foundations of our national heritage, allowing individuals to protect their rights and present their case before a jury of their peers. When John Peter Zenger was arrested for seditious libel in 1735, it resulted in a trial that would help ignite the American Revolution. The trial brought about openness to the public by bringing peers to be jurors, allowing everyone to see what was happening, rather than leaving the decision in the hands of a panel of judges.
The Zenger trial stemmed from Royal Governor William Cosby removing Justice Lewis Morris from the bench after Morris openly displayed his explanation for voting against Cosby in a case involving a battle with Rip Van Dam over half of Van Dam’s salary. The legal matter went before three members of the Supreme Court and Morris voted against Cosby.
When Zenger went to trial before a jury, he was found not guilty. The jury had found that he printed the truth when criticizing Royal Governor William Cosby for removing Justice Lewis Morris from his position on the bench. Zenger’s attorney stated that his client would not contest printing the spiteful words, but that they were just complaints from a number of individuals under a bad administration. By appearing in front of a jury rather than a panel of judges, it gave peers the voice to protect Zenger’s right to publish the statements he made. It opened the doors for trials in which victims can protect themselves.
Americans’ View of the Law Has Changed Since 1734
Now, despite the history of trial by jury, most cases are settled out of court, in private proceedings. Why are these hidden? Why don’t more cases rely on peers to decide the results? Most often, it’s to protect the companies, but we do whatever we can to expose the situation to the public.
In personal injury law, this is especially true. Companies and insurance providers would much rather settle cases instead of going to trial. There are a number of reasons for this. It’s important for injury victims to understand legal options and what they can possible do to increase the value of their cases.
Why Companies Would Rather Settle Than Go to Trial
Insurers and large companies do their best to avoid court litigation in nearly any injury lawsuits. Many of these same insurers and large companies have launched smear campaigns against the idea of filing a lawsuit.
Here’s why companies are determined to avoid jury trial:
When companies settle with the victims, they are more likely to pay less than if the case had gone to trial. The settlement offer is often a lot less than deserved because companies often try to diminish the severity of the injury and the value of the case.
Settling also allows the insurance company to keep the case hidden from the public. The publicity surrounding a lawsuit alleging negligence is devastating for the company at fault. Public backlash can result in the loss of clientele, which in turn, negatively affects the company’s profits.
When settling lawsuits, companies attempt to get away with paying less to the victim while never officially admitting fault. In a trial, the victim has both legal guidance and access to a jury who may not believe the innocence of the at-fault company. A trial evens the playing field—and companies don’t want this.
Why Jury Trials Are Relevant Today
American courts allow victims of serious accidents to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions. Companies fail to consider the safety of consumers when they put unsafe products on the market, oftentimes failing to inspect items or properly design them. Companies also fail to acknowledge these specific dangers, oftentimes resulting in significant injuries and leaving potential victims vulnerable to the life-altering impact.
In the event of a jury trial, victims are given a platform to publicize the situation that caused the injury, the accident, and any other effects that resulted due to negligence. These details are provided to the jury and judge, but it is the jury who makes the decision. Trials are the foundation of our legal system and today, they still hold relevancy in their ability to hold negligent parties financially and morally accountable.
How Injury Victims Make a Difference
Through jury trials, injured survivors are given a special opportunity: survivors get the chance to lead an effort that will make both themselves and their community safer.
When taking legal action, plaintiffs are able to seek the compensation they need in order to recover from the injuries they have sustained. This means they can hold the negligent party financially accountable for medical bills, loss of income, and other damages resulting from a catastrophic event. In the end, companies often end up fixing the issue that caused the injury or improving their safety policies to avoid future litigation.
Plaintiffs pursuing jury trials also bring the negligence of the company out into the public and force the company to acknowledge the accident. At the end of the day, it’s the best option to keep everything in the public forum to not only avoid being taken advantage of, but to also show that the company has done wrong. Liberty is built on keeping powerful institutions transparent—jury trials help support that.
Plaintiffs can seek justice. At the end of the day, many of the cases tried are about more than just money. The financial compensation helps cover the expenses resulting from the injury, but what plaintiffs want most is to know that the company is being held responsible for what they did. As such, when a victim successfully tries a case and the negligent party is forced to pay compensation, the victim knows that he or she has forced the company to answer for its actions.
Denver Trial Lawyers is one of the only firms left that handles trial cases because we know how important it is for our clients to get real justice. Justice doesn’t happen behind closed doors—it happens in the public square, where our communities can hold powerful people responsible in the court of law and the court of public opinion.
Trials trigger changes in our nation’s laws and in corporate policy, benefiting more and more communities like ripples in a pond. After thousands of cases, our team remains convinced that trial-by-jury is the bedrock of American justice. It’s what our nation was built on—and it’s still the best way to make global corporations answer to everyday people like you or me.
If you believe your wrongdoer’s actions deserve to be dragged