Jury Selection in a Civil Case in Virginia

Our personal injury cases are typically tried in Circuit Courts in our Commonwealth.[1]  Generally civil trials in Circuit Court in Virginia require seven jurors who must agree unanimously on the outcome.[2]

The Constitution provides our right to trial by jury, and jury selection is controlled by statute.  On the day on which jurors have been notified to appear at court, they are selected randomly until a panel of 13 is achieved.[3]  Thereafter, the judge and counsel for either the plaintiff or defendant shall have the right to examine under oath any person called as a juror.  Their questions are intended to ascertain whether such person is related to either party, or has any interest in the case, or has expressed or formed any opinion, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice.[4] This is called “voir dire”.

If as a result of the questioning counsel for one party believes someone on the panel of 13 people is unsuitable to be on the jury, a motion is made asking the judge to “strike” such person from the panel “for cause.”  If the judge agrees and strikes such person for cause, then a replacement is randomly selected to take that person’s place.[5]

After the judge is satisfied that all 13 members of the panel are suitable, each party then makes their “preemptory strikes.”  Each party is entitled to remove 3 of the 13 people from the panel, leaving a total of 7 jurors to decide their case.  This process occurs with the plaintiff’s lawyer and defense counsel alternating preemptory strikes, with plaintiff’s counsel going first.[6]

As a result of this process, both sides should feel confident that they have an impartial and unbiased jury to hear the evidence and decide their case.  This jury selection procedure is designed to help ensure a fairer result to all the litigants.

About the Author: Charles Allen is a Richmond car accident lawyer with the Richmond personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. He has handled injury cases for Virginians for more than 25 years. Mr. Allen works on cases primarily from the Richmond, Mechanicsville and Short Pump office.

[1] In Virginia, generally the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over any controversy involving more than $4,500.00.  The General District Court has jurisdiction over any controversy involving up to and including $25,000.00.  Therefore, either court can hear matters involving between $4,500.00 and $25,000.00.  These limits are effective July 1, 2011.  (See Va Code §16.1-77 at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+16.1-77; and Va Code §17.1-513 at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+17.1-513).
[2] If either side requests a jury and the amount in controversy is sufficient, then trial by jury is granted. See Va Code § 8.01-359 at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-359.
[5] Same as footnote 4 above.