How Does The Appeal Process Work in Personal Injury Cases?

May 31 2019 | Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
  • If you lose your personal injury case in the initial trial, you may feel disappointed and frustrated. However, the appeals provision means that not all is lost in the case of an unfavorable judgment. In this article, we will explain what the appeals process entails in Kentucky and Tennessee.

    Contrary to common beliefs and pop culture representations, a trial before the court is usually a personal injury lawyer’s last resort to ensure that their client’s legal demands will be met and their grievances rectified.

    The grand majority of personal injury claims settle before a lawsuit is ever filed and, in most cases, such settlement is in the best interest of both parties. This is due to the fact that, in a settlement, both parties share a certain degree of control over the outcome. In a trial, however, the ultimate result often depends on circumstances beyond the control of either of the parties. For example, what looks like an ironclad claim can quickly become undefendable if the judge pronounces certain evidence to be inadmissible. In addition, in the case of a jury trial, bias can sometimes affect how evidence – as well as how the plaintiff and the defendant – are perceived and this introduces an additional element of uncertainty as to the verdict.

    However, despite these apparent shortcomings of the trial process, on the whole, there is no reason to distrust this established legal procedure. Judicial systems around the world have recognized that, at times, human error can get in the way of justice. In response, the judicial system has provided a way to address this problem as well as to redress any potential violations that may occur. This solution is called the appeals process. If you are willing to take your personal injury case all the way to trial, you must also be prepared for the possibility of an appeal. In this article, you will learn what to expect if your initial personal injury lawsuit proves unsuccessful and your personal injury lawyer decides you need to file an appeal.

    How an Appeal Differs from the Initial Trial

    In general terms, during the initial trial, the plaintiff – by the means of the attorney who represents them – presents evidence and interviews witnesses in order to prove that his or her injuries were caused by the negligent actions of the defendant. The defendant, in turn, presents their evidence and witnesses in order to refute that claim. The appeal, on the other hand, isn’t simply a retrial of the initial case and therefore, it doesn’t follow the same process.

    For the same reason, an appeal cannot be filed just because one party doesn’t agree with the verdict. Rather, the appealing party must be able to prove that during the initial trial, certain legal or procedural mistakes were made that render the first judgment invalid. For example, the appellant may argue that certain types of misconduct were committed by the judge, jury, or lawyers during the initial trial. Or the appealing party may also claim that the initial judgment was based on insufficient or invalid evidence. In any case, the appellant must be able to prove that such violations have really been committed and that they led to an unfair verdict.

    How an appeal differs from the initial trial and what stages a typical appellate procedure follows.

    As we explained, an appeal is much different than the initial trial in which both parties appear before the court to present their claims, refute the arguments of the other side, and interview witnesses. Still, the appellate process follows a well-established legal procedure.


    While the appellate procedure varies slightly from state to state, the most important elements of it usually include the notice of appeal, written briefs, the oral argument, and the decision of the court. Below you will find a short explanation of each these stages with details pertaining to the appellate procedure in the appellate courts of Kentucky and Tennessee.

    Notice of Appeal

    The appeals process begins with one of the parties filing a notice of appeal. This is a simple document whose purpose is to notify other parties and the Court of Appeals about the intention to appeal the initial judgment. Both in Kentucky and in Tennessee, the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment. The notice must clearly identify the parties as well as the initial judgment that the appellant wishes to appeal. Along with the notice, the appealing party will also be required to pay appropriate filing fees.

    Written Briefs

    The most important part of the appeals process is the preparation of a written brief. The brief presents the appealing party’s argument, that is, the reasons why the party feels the appeal is substantiated along with the facts of the case and the violations that were committed during the initial trial. Since only a handful of appeals are heard by a judge personally in a procedure called the oral argument, the written brief can often determine whether the appeal will prevail or not.

    The appellee – or the party against which the appeal is filed – may respond with their own written brief in which they address the issues raised by the appellant, defending the initial judgment in the case. The appellant then has an opportunity to refute that response by the means of a reply brief.

    Oral Argument

    The parties appear before the court again only if they are selected for the oral argument. During the oral argument, no witnesses are heard and no new evidence is presented. Rather, each party is awarded a short period of time – no more than 30 minutes in both Kentucky and Tennessee – to offer further explanations to the judge.

    Decision of the Court

    The Court of Appeals will pronounce its decision with regards to the appeal on the basis of the briefs and the oral argument if a given appeal is selected for it. There are different outcomes that the decision of the appeals court may engender:

    • the initial judgment may be affirmed (meaning that the appeal was unsuccessful)
    • the initial judgment may be reversed (meaning that the appeals court granted the appeal)
    • the initial judgment may be affirmed in some of its aspects while reversed in others
    • the case may be remanded to the lower court for further proceedings

    Further Appeals

    If the appeals court decides to affirm the initial judgment, the case can still be appealed to courts of higher instances. In Kentucky, if an appeal doesn’t prevail in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, it can be further appealed in the Kentucky Supreme Court. Similarly, an appeal of a judgment pronounced by the Tennessee Court of Appeals can be made to the Tennessee Supreme Court. In rare cases, a person may be able to seek a further appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court which is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States.

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