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Your accident case goes to trial. During trial, does the judge suggest to the jury who is entitled to a verdict in their favor? Does the judge hint at how much compensation should be awarded?

There are some injured victims who believe that a judge influences how the jury decides a case.

There are some people who believe that it is the judge's responsibility and legal obligation to tell the jury what should be the outcome or verdict in their case. Those same people also believe that if you are entitled to a verdict, the judge has an obligation to tell the jury how much or what range of compensation you should actually receive.

The reality is that none of that occurs.

Let me explain why.

In cases involving medical malpractice, accident matters and wrongful death matters here in NY that are heard before a jury of your peers, the jury's function is clear-cut. The judge's function is also clear cut. Interestingly the two functions do not overlap.

Let me be even clearer.

HERE'S WHAT A JURY DOES...

  • The jury is to determine who was more likely right than wrong.
  • The jury determines who is more credible or believable.
  • The jury determines which set of facts they believe and which set of facts they do not believe.
  • In law, we say that the jury is the finder of the facts.
  • Although the members of the jury technically do not wear black robes like the judge, they are the sole arbiters, the sole judges of the facts in your case.

WHAT THE TRIAL JUDGE DOES...

On the other hand, the trial judge has nothing to do with determining who is right and who is wrong. The trial judge does not determine or influence which witnesses are more believable than the others. The trial judge does not sit and deliberate with the members of the jury at the end of the case to determine who is more likely right than wrong and who is legally responsible for your injuries.

The trial judge has an important function in our civil justice system.

  • The trial judge is in charge of how the trial progresses.
  • Which witnesses will go first and which witnesses will be called out of order belong to the judge's discretion.
  • What testimony and evidence is presented to the jury also falls to the judge to make rulings of law.
  • That is the judge's sole function.
  • The judge also determines what questions can and cannot be asked.

At the end of the trial, after the attorneys have given their closing remarks, the judge has an obligation to “charge the jury” with the law as it applies in New York.

What this means is that the judge has prepared legal instructions for the jury to apply once they have determined which set of facts they believe.

During the trial, the attorneys for both sides have an opportunity to recommend and request certain legal instructions be given at the end of the case. The judge will be the sole decider of which legal instructions get presented to the jury at the end of the case.

If there are objections made during the course of questioning witnesses, the judge will make immediate legal rulings to either allow that testimony and evidence to come in, or keep it out and not allow that to become part of the evidence presented to the jury.

Remember, this only applies where there is a jury trial. Cases involving Judge-only trials are different.

Typically, in most civil lawsuits where an injured victim is seeking compensation for the harms of losses they have suffered, they will usually opt to have a jury decide who is responsible for their injuries and how much compensation they are to receive as a result of that carelessness.

  • The trial judge is required to be impartial.
  • He is required to show no favoritism to either side.
  • The judge's personal beliefs and opinions about who is more likely right than wrong should have no bearing and play no part in the evaluation of and ultimate deliberations in your case.

A trial judge who verbally acknowledges and suggests to a jury his belief that one side or another is entitled to a verdict would likely result in an appeal that requires a reversal and a new trial.

There may be instances where a judge prevents testimony or evidence from coming in, either in favor or against one particular side repeatedly. To an observer or even an attorney on trial, it might appear as if the judge is favoring one side or the other. However, at the beginning of trial the judge will instruct the jury that his specific rulings play no part in the jury's decision as to who is entitled to a verdict.

The fact that a judge has sustained objections repeatedly, which means that he has prevented an attorney from asking certain questions of a witness or has repeatedly prevented an attorney from introducing evidence during the trial, is not to be construed that the judge favors one side or the other.

To go back to the original question, does the judge tell the jury who is entitled to a verdict and if so, how much compensation the injured victim is to receive? The answer is: Absolutely not.

Watch the video below to learn even more.