Generally, the law of the state in which the accident happened and where the case is pending will govern the facts of a particular automobile accident case. However, there are instances in which the courts must decide which state's law to apply.
An example of this issue may arise when a particular insurance policy is written in one state and provides certain coverages there and then the vehicle or person insured is involved in an accident in a different state. Some states require that certain provisions or coverages govern any accident or vehicle which enters its borders. This requirement can effectively rewrite an insurance policy written in another state.
At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence in an automobile accident case, the judge will read to the jury a set of instructions that they must follow in deciding the case. Included in those instructions will be the law as it currently exists for automobile accident cases.
The jury is instructed that they must follow the law as it is given to them by the judge even if they disagree or do not like the law. In fact, at the beginning of the process when the jury is initially sworn in, each juror swears an oath to apply the law as it is given to them by the judge.
Prior to the judge instructing the jury, the judge holds what is known as a jury charge conference with the attorneys from both sides so that each side can submit jury charges to the judge for what they believe the law states and which, if read to the jury, they believe will be most beneficial to their clients.
The judge reviews the charges submitted by both sides and picks and chooses which ones will present the most accurate and balanced statement of the law to the jury.
In addition to the instructions regarding the burden of proof the plaintiff has in proving all aspects of the case by a preponderance of the evidence, the jury in an automobile accident case is usually instructed with several other general statements of the law. Although the particular laws differ from state to state, most state laws are very similar. The Car Accident Case Study Topics on this site provide good examples of the automobile accident laws which most states use for the particular type of accidents stated.
Since the jury charge conference is conducted just before closing arguments are made to the jury, the lawyers know what charges will be read to the jury and they can emphasize the ones favorable to them in their closing argument.
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