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What happens if the Judge Gives the Wrong Legal Instructions to the Jury

Apr 17, 2015 | Legal Terminology

If the judge gives the wrong legal instructions to the jury at the end of your personal injury case, would it make a difference? The answer is yes, it would make a significant difference.

The Wrong Legal Instructions can Lead to the Wrong Conclusion of the Jury

Bill of Particulars

You can always challenge the verdict of the lower courts in the courts that outrank the lower ones. 

Here is a typical scenario. You go to trial in either a medical malpractice, accident, or even a wrongful death case, and the trial is now over and the attorneys have made their closing remarks. Now the judge has to provide legal instructions to the jury on what the law is that they must apply to this case. What happens if the judge tells the jury instructions that are not accurate? Well, the jury will be relying on inaccurate information and they may come to the wrong conclusions.

Such a Verdict can be Appealed

When the judge gives wrong legal instructions to the jury, the defense or the plaintiff can appeal the decision given by the jury. In such instances, the case will be sent to a higher court for review.

The Possibility of a Harmless Error

Now, there is a possibility that if the judge gives the jury a wrong instruction, then this might be considered something known as a harmless error. In other words, if the higher court that reviews the verdict, determines that the judge gave them an instruction that really did not make a difference to the case, it is termed as harmless error and they will still allow the original verdict to stand.

The Higher Court has Several Avenues to Choose From

However, what if the judge gives wrong legal instructions to the jury that dramatically shifts the way the jury looks at the case? The jury’s resolve can be drastically and sharply altered, had they been given the correct instructions. In such instances, the higher court that reviews the verdict can do a number of things:

  • They can dismiss the case outright
  • They can lower the verdict that has been awarded, which means lower the compensation amount
  • They can increase the amount that has been awarded
  • They can determine that the amount awarded was inappropriate, and send the entire case back to the original trial judge to retry the case all over again with a new jury

The review court therefore has many different options, when the judge has given the jury incorrect instructions and such instructions has made a significant difference in the outcome.

Hence, if you have filed a personal injury case, and at the end of the trial the judge gives wrong legal instructions to the jury, you or the defense will have the opportunity to appeal the verdict to a higher court. If the higher court determines it is not a harmless error, then they can then dismiss your case, send it for a retrial, or change the dollar amount that has been awarded to you.