Personal Injury Blog

How Juries Are Picked in Maryland Auto Accident Lawsuits

By: Matthew Tievsky

One of the biggest factors that will determine the outcome of a trial is who is in your jury. Jurors come in with their own beliefs, leanings, and prejudices, which will affect how they view the testimony and other evidence at trial. That's why picking a jury can be very important to the outcome of your case.Maryland Jury Selection

There are twelve jurors in a criminal case in Maryland, but in a civil case there are only six. The judge may, however, pick one or two extra (or more) to sit through the case, until the deliberations begin. These extras are called "alternates." They are picked to serve as jurors in case one of the regular jurors doesn't make it to the end of the trial – for example, if a juror fails to return to court after the first day of trial, or falls ill, or does something wrong that leads the judge to disqualify him/her. If the trial ends and there are six jurors plus alternates, the judge will excuse the alternates at that point. (Or, if by the end of the trial less than six jurors remain, the parties can agree to proceed to a verdict with less than six jurors. Otherwise, the trial must restart.)

The jury is picked before the trial begins, during the voir dire process. A "panel" of potential jurors is brought to the courtroom – roughly 25 potential jurors. The court asks these jurors basic questions to find out if they might be biased about the case – for example, whether the jurors know any of the parties, lawyers, or witnesses, or whether the jurors have been in the shoes of either party before (e.g., in a car accident case, the judge will often ask whether the jurors themselves have been in any car accidents). During this questioning process, the judge may allow the attorneys to ask some questions of the jurors. If, during the questioning, a juror reveals some bias, the court will generally disqualify the juror right there. Once the court believes it has eliminated all of the biased jurors, each party gets to exercise three "peremptory strikes," i.e., to eliminate three jurors for any reason at all (as long as the reason isn't based on race or sex). Once the peremptory strikes are exercised, the court selects the first six jurors (plus alternates) of the remaining panel members, in the order that the panel members are seated in the courtroom. The rest of the panel is excused.

Picking favorable jurors from a jury pool requires effective questioning by your attorney. It also requires careful observation, in order to use the peremptory strikes wisely. If you have any questions about procedure in a Maryland auto accident case, including how juries are picked, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. with your questions.