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What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty in New York City?

Posted in Personal Injury on July 22, 2021

Juries perform a valuable service in our judicial system. They are the triers of fact. Jurors hear evidence and decide which party prevails in a civil or criminal case.

Jury duty is not voluntary. If you receive a jury summons, you must appear for jury duty unless you are excused from service. Failing to appear for jury duty in a criminal or civil case could result in penalties. You will also be assigned a new date for future jury service.

What Happens if You Miss Your Jury Date in NYC?

In most cases, you will receive a second summons for jury duty. However, ignoring a jury summons can be treated as contempt of court. Contempt of court may be punished by fines and jail time.

Instead of ignoring the jury summons, you should request an excuse from service because of a medical or financial hardship. You may also request a postponement of your jury service by contacting the court at least one week before the date of service.

There are no automatic exemptions from jury service. You need to contact the Commissioner of Jurors for your county to request an exemption.

What Happens During a Civil Jury Trial?

If you never served on a jury before, you may be apprehensive about jury service. However, knowing what happens during a civil trial can help relieve some of the anxiety you might feel.

Personal injury cases are a common type of civil court case.

Personal injury lawsuits might arise from a variety of incidents including, but not limited to:

The plaintiff (injured party) files the lawsuit seeking compensation for their damages related to the accident. Damages may include financial losses (economic damages). They may also include the pain and suffering caused by the accident and injuries (non-economic damages).

The plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant (the person being sued) was responsible for the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence claims. Negligence is the failure to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have used in a situation.

To prove negligence, the plaintiff must show:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  • The defendant breached the duty of care
  • The breach was a direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
  • The plaintiff sustained damages

The jurors listen to the evidence presented by both parties. Jurors must decide what evidence they believe. They may disregard testimony or evidence they do not believe to be accurate or trustworthy.

The attorneys for both parties make closing arguments summing up their allegations and how they believe the evidence supports those allegations. Next, the judge instructs the jury about the laws that apply to the case. The jurors must then deliberate among themselves.

In a personal injury case, the jurors decide whether the plaintiff proved that the defendant was responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries. If the jurors find the defendant is liable for damages, the jury then decides how much the plaintiff’s damages are worth.

The decision of the jury must be unanimous. If all jurors do not agree on whether the defendant is liable for damages, the judge may declare a mistrial.

How Many Personal Injury Cases Are Decided by Juries?

Most personal injury cases in New York are settled without filing a personal injury lawsuit. Instead, the parties negotiate a settlement or enter mediation or arbitration to settle the claim.

Even though a personal injury lawsuit is filed, it does not mean the case goes to a jury trial. The parties could settle the case at any time before trial. Settlements generally take place after the parties complete the discovery phase of the lawsuit.

The discovery phase of a lawsuit allows each side to request information and documentation from the other party. It allows the parties to view the evidence the other side has to evaluate the strength of the evidence and prepare for trial.

However, many times, a party may decide to settle a lawsuit before the trial because the evidence obtained during discovery may indicate the party’s odds of winning the case or obtaining a favorable award are low. Thus, settling the case before the jury trial might be the best way to avoid a more unfavorable outcome.

Jury trials are unpredictable. You never know what jurors might decide. For an accident victim, negotiating a settlement might be better than taking a chance that jurors will agree with the evidence presented in court and side with the accident victim.