Many personal injury cases are settled before trial, as the responsible parties, insurance companies and injured parties often see the value in negotiating a deal rather than taking the risk of going to trial. However, there are still some lawsuits that go to trial. If that happens in your case, you may be required to take the stand as a witness.
The idea of testifying before a jury and a courtroom full of people can be daunting, even for someone who may be used to speaking in front of other people. It may also be scary to think of talking about highly personal and emotional issues, such as how you were hurt and how you have suffered since your accident.
How to prepare for your testimony
The good news is that preparing for your testimony can make the process far less frightening. By working hand-in-hand with your attorney, you can be ready for your time on the witness stand. Start by attending practice sessions with your personal injury attorney and/or their staff. These sessions are vitally important to being ready for whatever your attorney and the other side’s attorney may ask you.
By the time the case goes to trial, it may have been a year or longer since the accident, and your memory may be fuzzy. This is often the case when you have endured significant injuries and have required medical treatment. Review your documents and your own notes to refresh your memory and go over the facts of your case with your attorney. If possible, visit your local courthouse to get an idea of what happens at a trial and what you can expect.
At trial, you will be asked questions by your attorney and by the other side’s attorney. When your attorney is questioning you, this is known as a direct examination. This is your opportunity to tell your story. Your lawyer will ask you open-ended questions, and you will have a chance to explain what happened. You should prepare what you are going to say in advance, so that you feel comfortable answering all questions.
When the other side’s lawyer is questioning you, this is known as a cross examination. The other attorney can ask what is known as leading questions that try to frame your answer. These questions often just require a yes or no response, like, “Isn’t it true that you were looking at your phone when the accident occurred?”
Be sure to listen to what is actually being asked, and only answer that question. Keep your answers short and to the point and try to focus on what is important. For the question above, a simple “no” would be a sufficient answer. After the attorney has asked you a question, briefly pause to see if your attorney will object. If either side objects to a question, then the judge will rule on whether or not it is permissible. You can then answer the question.
Above all, it is important that you are honest when testifying. Telling a lie on the stand can only hurt your case — and possibly open you up to criminal charges for lying under oath. If there are facts about your accident that may hurt your case, discuss them with your attorney and how to handle it if they come up while you are testifying. Your personal injury attorney will likely have a strategy for dealing with these issues.
If you have been hurt in any type of accident, we can help. Contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 to schedule a free initial consultation. We will aggressively pursue a recovery so that you get the money you deserve for your injuries — whether it involves a settlement or going to trial. We will be by your side throughout the process, giving you peace of mind.