If you watch television or movies, you have probably seen the dramatic scenes where the jury returns to the courtroom to deliver their verdict. The suspense builds as the foreperson reads the decision aloud, sending the parties into cheers or tears, depending on the verdict.
In the real world, the courtroom environment is not as dramatic. However, the process of jury deliberation and decision is very similar.
But what, really, does the term verdict mean? Keep reading for a complete definition of verdict.
What is the legal definition of a verdict?
Black’s Law Dictionary defines verdict as the formal decision of a jury in a court proceeding.
The underlying legal concept for a verdict is signification, which indicates a formal decree or judicial act. By rendering a verdict, the jury signifies that it has arrived at its decision.
Although you may hear this word used in other contexts, it always carries this meaning in the legal arena.
Can a judge render a verdict?
Legally, no judge, commissioner, or other officer of the court can render a verdict. It is strictly the purview of a jury. In some cases, judges can set aside a verdict if they have a justifiable reason for doing so.
Types of Verdicts
Depending on the venue and the type of action heard, juries can return different types of verdicts.
This is the type of verdict you may be most familiar with. In criminal matters, the decision rendered is “guilty” or “not guilty.” In civil cases, the jury decides for the plaintiff or the defendant. Although the law once required all verdicts to be unanimous, many states and municipalities allow for a vote of 10 to 2 today.
This type of decision, used only on occasion, applies to complex civil cases involving technical issues of fact. The judge poses detailed questions to the jury and, depending on their responses, issues a decision on the case. Technically, this type of decision does not meet the true legal definition of a verdict.
Based on the strict legal definition, a directed verdict is also not a true verdict, because the court issues this decision in cases where the prosecution fails to meet its burden of proof. The court may allow the jury to deliberate and arrive at a decision. However, in the event that the jury votes to convict, the court’s directed verdict of acquittal will prevail.
How do you get a verdict in a personal injury claim?
To obtain a verdict in a personal injury claim, you must take your case to court.
Personal injury trials are civil in nature, which means the jury will decide for the plaintiff or the defendant. If you sustained an injury, your role in court will be the plaintiff.
The most effective way to obtain a favorable verdict and appropriate financial settlement is to have a personal injury lawyer represent you in court. Your lawyer will guide you through the entire legal process, preparing a robust case on your behalf and using the voir dire process to select the best possible jury.
In Pennsylvania, the personal injury attorneys of Berger and Green have been protecting the legal rights of their clients for more than four decades. We understand the complex legal aspects of the law and stand ready to put our experience to work for you.