It’s Not Over Until It’s Over: An Introduction to the Appeal Process

Nobody likes to lose.

And losing a personal injury lawsuit can be devastating.

But it happens.

Rulings made during trial aren’t always going to be in your favor. Sometimes the judge may rule against you. And sometimes, a ruling (or several rulings) might cause you to lose your case.

But does a final decision or verdict in favor of the other party mean it’s over?

Not always.

As the old saying goes, it is not over until it’s over.

Depending on what occurred during your trial, you might be able to turn that adverse ruling around.


By appealing it.

Appeals—Just the Basics

An appeal in civil law is a legal procedure used to ask a higher court to review a lower tribunal’s final decision. The party bringing the appeal (i.e., the “appellant”) will assert (and must be able to show) that he or she lost the case because of a harmful legal error.

What this means is that you cannot file an appeal just because you are unhappy that you lost.

To appeal a lower court’s order, you must be able to show that a legal error occurred. Not only must an appellant show that legal error (or errors) occurred below, but he or she must also show that those errors “harmed” his or her case. In other words, the appellant must show that he lost his case because of the legal error(s).

Examples of harmful legal errors include such things as erroneous jury instructions, or an evidentiary ruling that either excluded evidence (harming plaintiff’s or defendant’s case) or allowed evidence in that harmfully impacted a party’s case.

An Appeal is not a New Trial

It is important to understand that an appeal is a focused and limited review of the proceedings that occurred at trial.

The higher court will not (with rare exceptions) accept new evidence. An appeal is not an opportunity for the losing party to get “another bite at the apple.” It does not allow the losing party to re-try the case before a higher court.

Further, before you can take an appeal  (which you do by filing a Notice of Appeal) the order from the lower court must be a final order. If you attempt to appeal before rendition of the final order in Florida, your appeal will be premature and will be rejected.

On the other hand, there are strict deadlines for filing an appeal, which, if missed, will also prevent you from appealing the decision. So please consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

How does the appellate court review the lower court proceedings for error if they do not take new evidence and testimony?

It all starts with…

The Appellate Record and Briefs

Appeals are limited to what exists in the record. The record, which will be put together by your attorney handling the appeal and filed with the court, consists of the papers and documents filed in the case and any trial transcripts.

The arguments supporting the trial court’s decision and opposing it are set out in the parties’ briefs.

The appellant (person appealing the lower court’s decision) will set out in his or her written brief all the reasons why the judgment was wrong. These reasons must be supported by law and by specific references to the record.

The “appellee” (i.e., the party opposing the appeal) will set out in his or her brief all the reasons why the decision was correct. Again, the statements made in appellee’s brief must be supported by law and by citation to the record.

Oral Argument

After the briefs are filed, the court may hear oral argument.

Oral argument is not required in all cases and may be waived by mutual agreement between the parties, however if the court does hear oral argument, it is not a rehashing of what is in the record or in the briefs.

Rather, the court may question the rationale or legal precedent presented in the briefs.

Lots of Factors to Consider Before Taking an Appeal

Appellate procedures and rules are complicated and highly specific. Which is why it is never advisable to attempt to appeal your personal injury action by yourself. Instead, consult an experienced personal injury attorney if you are considering taking an appeal.

Consulting counsel is necessary not only because the rules governing appeals are complex, but because a number of factors must be carefully evaluated and analyzed to decide whether an appeal is worth the time and effort in the first place.

For example, you cannot appeal a settlement.

Nor can you appeal legal errors made in your case that were not determinative of the outcome. In other words, you cannot appeal errors that did not “harm” your case.

Finally, whether the outcome of an appeal is cost-effective or will be worth the time and effort of appealing must be evaluated and carefully considered.

Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you do this.

Personal Injury Attorneys Ready to Help

Florida accident lawyer John Fagan and his experienced team are dedicated to helping accident victims. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, contact us now for your free consultation or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.



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