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Bifurcate, in the legal sense, is the dividing of a case into two stages for trial. A common division is to determine liability or guilt in the first stage and damages or punishment in the second. For example, in criminal proceedings, the guilt or innocence of the defendant is determined in one stage, and the penalty is determined in the other. In personal injury cases, the issues of liability and damages are also heard separately. See: bifurcated trial.

[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]