When a car accident civil action has completed the discovery phase, then a trial will be set and held. If a party did not request for a trial by jury in accordance with Civil Rule 38, then the civil action will be tried by the court.
The difference between a jury and court/bench trial is the decider of issues in the case. When a jury trial is tired by a jury then the issues of facts of the case are decided by the Jury. When a trial is a bench/court trial, then issues of fact are to be decided by the Judge.
If you want your lawsuit to be decided by a Jury then you must comply with Civil Rule 38 and request it. This will allow for a panel of your peers/community members (the Jury) to decide the issues of the case.
For a car accident lawsuit, the issues a jury would determine would be the issues in dispute – typically these issues regarding injuries to a plaintiff, a necessity of medical care, and/or the circumstances of the car accident (who caused the accident).
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Civil Rule 39: Trial by Jury or by the Court
(-) Issues — How tried. [Reserved. See RCW 4.40.010 through 4.40.070.]
(a) By Jury.
(1) Rule. When trial by jury has been demanded as provided in rule 38, the action shall be designated upon the docket as a jury action. The trial of all issues so demanded shall be by jury, unless (A) the parties or their attorneys of record, by written stipulation filed with the court or by an oral stipulation made in open court and entered in the record, consent to trial by the court sitting without a jury or (B) the court upon motion or of its own initiative finds that a right of trial by jury of some or all of those issues does not exist under the constitution or statutes of the state.
(2) Questions of fact for jury. [Reserved. See RCW 4.44.090.]
(b) By the court.
(1) Rule. Issues not demanded for trial by jury as provided in rule 38 shall be tried by the court; but, notwithstanding the failure of a party to demand a jury in an action in which such a demand might have been made of right, the court in its discretion upon motion may order a trial by a jury of any or all issues.
(2) Questions of law to be decided by court. [Reserved. See RCW 4.44.080.]
(c) Advisory jury and trial by consent. In all actions not triable of right by a jury the court, upon motion or of its own initiative, may try an issue with an advisory jury or it may, with the consent of both parties, order a trial with a jury whose verdict has the same effect as if trial by jury had been a matter of right.
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