Jury selection in personal injury trials is critically important, as not every juror can be impartial in every single case. Voir dire, literally translated as “speak the truth”, is the preliminary phase of a trial during which jurors are questioned, examined, and selected to sit and decide a case.
The Supreme Court of Virginia recently issued its first-ever rule on voir dire in civil trials, providing more explicit guidance for lawyers and judges about what they can ask potential jurors.
The new rule (Rule 3:22A) directs judges to ask each prospective juror if he or she:
- Is related by blood, adoption, or marriage to the accused or to the Plaintiff or Defendant;
- Is an officer, director, agent or employee of the Plaintiff or Defendant;
- Has any interest in the trial or the outcome of the case;
- Has acquired any information about the case or the parties from the news media or other sources and, if so, whether such information would affect the juror’s impartiality in the case;
- Has expressed or formed any opinion about the case;
- Has a bias or prejudice against the Plaintiff or Defendant; or
- Has any reason to believe the juror might not give a fair and impartial trial to the Plaintiff and Defendant based solely on the law and the evidence.
“These boiler plate questions should be just a start,” says Doug. “We often also ask the judges to describe the case and the parties in some detail, so that everyone can have accurate information. Having an impartial and unbiased jury is one of the hallmarks of our wonderful American legal system.”