The Jobs of the Judge and Jury
The court system is full of people with specific jobs to do, but those jobs can often be confusing to people who do not often interact with the court system, such as personal injury victims. One particular point of confusion is the different roles the judge and jury play in the system. After all, they are both decision-makers in the case. Judges make rulings constantly on all sorts of questions put forward by the parties, but then the judge surrenders responsibility to the jury when it comes time to actually decide the case. As it happens, there are actually specific types of questions that the jury and the judge are each supposed to be answering.
The Jury’s Job
The jury is a group of people without any special legal training, and the questions that they are responsible for answering reflect those qualities. The idea behind the jury is to harness the experiences of ordinary people in their daily lives. Consequently, the jury is usually responsible for questions relating to the facts of the case and figuring out what actually happened. For instance, if a car accident case hinged on whether a traffic light was red or green at the time of the accident, it would be the job of the jury to listen to the witnesses, judge which ones were believable, and examine any other evidence like photographs to ultimately conclude whether the light was actually red or green.
Juries are also commonly responsible for questions where there are legal standards that need to be applied to facts. For instance, prevailing in a car accident case usually requires the injured party to show that the defendant failed to drive as carefully as a reasonably prudent person should have. The jurors are supposed to be a cross-section of society who can come to a conclusion about how carefully it is reasonable to expect someone to drive, so they are responsible for comparing the defendant’s driving to that legal standard.
The Judge’s Job
Unlike the jury, the judge does have a considerable amount of special legal training and experience. Therefore, the questions that the judge decides tend to be those related to uncertainties in the law. For instance, if the parties disagree over what legal standard applies, then the judge would be the one to settle that dispute before sending the standard to the jury. Judges are also responsible for approving jury instructions, which are summaries of the law that jurors are supposed to follow when making their factual decisions.
Additionally, there are instances where judges may step in and actually answer factual questions, though these are much rarer. One common place it will appear is in the admissibility of evidence. Judges act as gatekeepers with regard to what evidence the jury is allowed to hear, and that role may require factual decisions from time to time.
The legal system is full of unusual complexities and divisions like this, which can make it confusing, but you do not have to go through it alone. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident and you have questions about your rights, contact a Florida personal injury attorney at PIke & Lustig, LLP today.