What is a verdict form?

Once the attorneys in a civil or criminal trial have completed presenting their sides of the case, the jury is tasked with determining the outcome. Before jurors begin their deliberations, the judge will deliver a set of instructions that the jurors must follow. They will also receive a verdict form, typically a question-and-answer form designed to help the jury answer the underlying questions of the case.

A verdict form should aid the jury in determining whether the burden of proof has been for each element in a case. Often these forms are tailor made for the case as a result of the lawyers on both sides working together and with the judge to create a custom list of questions that the jurors must answer. Depending on the type of case the jury is hearing, the burden of proof will vary. For example, in most criminal cases, the jury must definitely agree that the prosecutors in a case proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. In most civil cases, like a contract dispute, the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence, which in a contract dispute means that the plaintiff’s attorneys proved that the alleged breach of contract is more likely true that not.

Verdict forms in some cases may simply ask which party proved its case and if damages are sought, how much the jury would award in damages. In other cases, the instructions will ask step-by-step questions to aid the jury in making its determination. Either way, the verdict form should be an aid the jury uses in reaching a decision. To read more about jury verdict forms, click here.


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