Your Constitutional Right to Impartial Jurors

If your personal injury case goes to trial, a jury will most likely make determinations regarding who was at fault for the injuries and the amount of damages suffered by the injured party. Injured persons have a constitutional right to a fair trial, which includes the right to have their case heard by an impartial jury of their peers. This means that the jury must be made up of legal residents in the county where the trial is being conducted as well ensuring that these jurors are unbiased. In Florida, there is a mandatory disqualification from the case of any biased jurors. Biased jurors include any person who has a state of mind regarding the defendant, the case, or the person alleged to have been injured that will prevent them from acting impartially; any person who has formed or expressed any opinion or is sensible of any bias or prejudice concerning it; any person who is an employee or who has been an employee of any party within 30 days before trial; any person under prosecution for any crime; convicted felons; any persons related by blood or marriage within the third degree to the plaintiff, defendant, or the attorneys; and any person who does not possess sufficient knowledge of reading, writing, or arithmetic to understand the case if the case requires such knowledge. A juror should be excused if there is any reasonable doubt as to the juror’s ability to render an impartial verdict. If it is a close call, the Judge should err on the side of excusing the juror.

Jurors usually fill out a questionnaire that elicits some preliminary information regarding the jurors’ background and impartiality. The attorneys and the Judge will usually follow up with additional questions to potential jury members through a process called jury selection, or “voir dire.” This gives both sides a chance to pose questions to the potential jury members regarding their biases and experiences. If the attorneys or the court elicit statements from the potential jurors that would disqualify them, that juror can be challenged and struck from the panel for cause because that person would not be impartial. The attorneys for the plaintiff and defense will also be given three preemptory challenges which they can use to exclude potential jurors that they do not want on the case for gender and race neutral reasons. After the jury selection process, you will hopefully have a panel of unbiased and impartial jurors who will decide upon the issues in your case.