New York Trials are structured differently in Manhattan and Bronx personal injury cases than they are in the remainder of the lower Hudson Valley and other boroughs of New York City. In a New York County construction accident, or a Bronx slip and fall case, for example, there are “full trials”, meaning that all issues are litigated before a jury in the same trial: issues as to the fault of the parties, as well as the injuries suffered by the plaintiff, the treatment performed by the doctors involved and the all damages issues involving the permanency of the injuries.
Conversely, in Queens County, for example, as well as the lower Hudson Valley jurisdictions such as Westchester County, Dutchess County, Rockland County, and Orange County, to use some examples, except in rare instances, trials are “bifurcated.” Bifurcated means split into two parts. So, as an example, in a Westchester County motor vehicle accident, the jury first hears testimony and considers evidence only of the negligence or fault of the parties involved in the car accident, and first makes a decision as to whether the defendant(s) and or the plaintiff are legally responsible for the accident. (For a description of how we prove the defendant’s negligence in a personal injury case, please see our November 13, 2007 blog entitled “Burden of Proof in New York Personal Injury Cases”). It is only if a jury finds the defendant(s) partially or wholly at fault for the accident in a bifurcated trial that a jury then decides the amount of damages to award the plaintiff in a bifurcated case.