Your personal injury case might be one of the few cases that make it all the way to trial. If it does, you might need to think about an appeal. An appeal is a process that allows you to ask a court to overturn the jury’s decision.
In most cases, you ask a higher court to review the judgment and overturn it. Sometimes, you make the request directly to the court that presided over the trial. Here’s what you need to know should you find yourself facing the process of appealing your personal injury judgment.
How to Appeal a Personal Injury Judgment
There are a few different ways that you can ask a court to reconsider the jury’s decision. First, you can apply to a higher court to review the trial. You tell the higher court why you think the verdict is wrong, and you ask the court to overturn it. In most cases, you have thirty days from the date of the judgment to file your appeal.
Another option that may be available to you is a motion for a new trial. This request goes to the same court that conducted the original trial. To ask for a new trial, you must cite one of the reasons listed in Nevada’s Civil Procedure Rule 59. These reasons include:
- Misconduct by the jury
- Misconduct by the other side
- New evidence
- A mistake of law
- Or any other issue that kept you from having a fair trial
You have to act quickly to file a motion for a new trial because you have only ten days after the jury verdict to make this request.
Whether it’s an appeal to a higher court or a motion for a new trial, working to have the court’s decision overturned requires filing formal court paperwork and serving the other side. In the case of an appeal to a higher court, you need to secure transcripts of the lower court proceeding. You will likely need a docketing statement of the lower court proceedings and your own documents that explain where the lower court made errors.
What Are Some Grounds for Appeal?
If you file an appeal, it’s not enough just to say that the jury’s verdict is incorrect. Instead, you have to give a specific reason why. For example, you might say that the jury disregarded jury instructions. You might argue that the court refused to allow the jury to consider certain types of evidence that it should have been allowed to review. Perhaps the court didn’t allow a crucial expert witness to testify on your behalf.
You aren’t limited to choosing only one grounds for appeal. Instead, you’re free to list all of the ways that the court or the jury erred during the lower court proceedings. This procedure is called arguing in the alternative. It’s allowed, and it’s common in Nevada personal injury case appeals to list multiple grounds for appeal.
Standard of Review
In most cases, the higher court that considers the appeal looks for what’s called an abuse of discretion. Generally, they trust the judgment of the lower court. They say that the lower court is in the best position to determine the credibility of witnesses and make other decisions about whether the jury can consider certain pieces of evidence. Unless the lower court makes a big mistake, the higher court usually says that the trial court can make their own decisions.
The higher court looks to see if the error likely made a difference in the outcome of the case. That is, if the court had made a different decision on the issue in question, it must be significant enough that it might have made the jury reach a different conclusion. If a trial court’s mistake is too insignificant to overturn a verdict, it’s called a harmless error.
Outcome of a Personal Injury Appeal
There may be several different results of an appeal. The outcome depends, in part, on what you ask the court to do. Of course, the court might decide to uphold the verdict. In that case, nothing changes at all.
If the court grants your appeal, they may vacate the jury’s entire verdict. In that case, they send the case back for a new trial. Alternatively, the court might change only the award of damages in your case.
An Example of Appeals in Personal Injury
One example of a successful Nevada personal injury appeal is the case of Sanders v. Sears-Page. In that case, the plaintiffs sued the responsible party after an auto accident. The defendant argued that the plaintiff wasn’t hurt by the car accident and that they had a pre-existing condition that explained their symptoms. The jury agreed with the defendant.
The plaintiff brought the case to the Court of Appeals. They claimed that the trial court made several mistakes that made the trial unfair. First, they argued that the court refused to dismiss a juror after they showed signs of bias. The appeals court agreed and went on to say that the court may have even made the juror more biased against the plaintiff because of the way they questioned the juror.
The appeals court also agreed that the lower court shouldn’t have admitted an exhibit. They agreed that the exhibit hadn’t been admitted properly according to the Nevada evidence rules. Also, the plaintiff successfully pointed out that the court allowed an expert for the defense to testify about the exhibit without following the Rules of Civil Procedure that required them to disclose their testimony ahead of time.
Ultimately, the result of the appeal in the Sanders v. Sears-Page case was that the court of appeals said the trial verdict wasn’t valid. They sent the case back to the lower court and instructed the lower court to conduct a new trial. The court of appeals told them to correct their mistakes in the new trial.
How an Attorney Can Help
When you work with one of our Las Vegas or Henderson personal injury lawyers, they can help you evaluate your case and form realistic expectations. Your attorney can use their training and experience to evaluate the law and the facts. They can tell you if your appeal is likely to be successful.
If you’re going to pursue an appeal, it’s important to make sure your paperwork is properly prepared. You need to cite what went wrong in the trial and explain how the law applies. It’s critical that you meet deadlines and file the paperwork in the appropriate court. You need to make sure that you have the necessary supporting documents. Working with an experienced personal injury law firm can help you make the best decisions in your case and pursue your interests to the fullest extent of Nevada law.