Most people associate the appeals process with criminal law matters. In criminal trials, it is only the defendant who has grounds to appeal a judgement, but in civil lawsuits, both parties have the right to appeal a personal injury verdict.
In California, as in all states, an appeal must be predicated upon a reversible error in law. It is not enough that the plaintiff disagrees with the jurors’ decision or believes they are entitled to a larger damage award. Instead, they must provide a specific infraction or misinterpretation of the law that prejudiced the appellant (the person filing the appeal) in some way. For instance, your attorney may file an appeal if jurors disregarded courtroom instructions, or an expert witness was unjustly barred from offering crucial testimony. In California, it is not uncommon for appellants to list multiple grounds for appealing a personal injury decision.
An appeal is a legal process in which a higher court examines perceived mistakes or misconduct during the trial proceedings. If the appellate court finds that the law was misapplied or evidence of procedural errors, it has the authority to overturn the verdict or mandate a new trial.
How does the appeals process work?
In a personal injury trial, jurors are tasked with examining facts and evidence to determine which party is liable for damages. The appeals process does not involve a jury, but rather a panel of judges who review an appellate brief provided by your legal counsel.
It is up to your personal injury lawyer to submit a thorough, compelling appellate brief that details which laws were incorrectly interpreted or other errors committed. The defendant’s counsel will provide their own appellate brief that demonstrates the law was applied correctly and the lower court’s decision was indeed correct. After both sides present oral arguments to the judges, the court renders a decision. Usually, this process takes at least a couple of months but more complex cases may last upwards of a year.
It is left to the appellate judges to determine whether procedural steps were strictly followed and if the verdict will be upheld.
If the appeal is granted, there are several possible outcomes. The court may vacate the personal injury verdict entirely, remand the case back to lower court for a new trial, or the damage award may be revised.
Grounds for appealing a personal injury case
According to California’s Code of Civil Procedure, a new trial may be granted under a number of circumstances:
- Error in law, occurring at the trial (§ 657(7)
- Misconduct of the jury (§ 657(2)
- Excessive or inadequate damages (§ 657(5)
- Irregularity in the proceedings of the court, jury or adverse party, or any order of the court or abuse of — discretion by which either party was prevented from having a fair trial (§ 657(1))
- Lack of evidence to justify the damage of the verdict and that such verdict is against the law (§ 657(6)
Personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles
Partnering with a talented personal injury attorney is imperative for pursuing justice to fullest extent of California law. Whether you are interested in filing a claim or believe that the verdict in your personal injury trial was unfounded, The Salamati Law Firm is poised to help.
Additional Resources on “Appealing a Personal Injury Case in California”:
- California Courts, Courts of Appeal, http://www.courts.ca.gov/courtsofappeal.htm
- American Bar Association, Steps in a Trial – Appeals, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_related_education_network/how_courts_work/appeals.html