If your cases has been set for trial, there are some things that you will need to prepare to be ready. What are you preparing for? Simply, to provide the best testimony possible to the judge. That means you need to be ready for the questions your lawyer will ask you, and you need to anticipate the questions that the defense attorney will ask you. These are the steps important for testimony, whether it is an automobile collision case, slip-and-fall, or any other type of personal injury.
- Contact your lawyer. Set up a time before the trial to go over your testimony. Our office will use a trial script to help you understand the questions we will ask. Based on our review of your file, including your medical records, our conversations with you, and your answers to interrogatories, we will draft the questions and what we think the answers are. Your job is to review those, make sure they are correct, and help provide as much detail as you can.
- Know your medicals. You should review your medical records—preferably, read them all to remind you of what you went through. At the very least, have a good idea of who you went to, for how long, and know about how much they charged you. Reading medical records isn’t the most enjoyable thing, but knowing your medicals will help you to understand your case.
- Stick to your Answers. Earlier in the case you will have signed, under oath, written answers to interrogatories. These are questions that the other side asks you, that you answer with the help of your lawyer. These are important—you must answer these truthfully and fully. When you go to trial, the other side will have a copy of those Answers. If your testimony at trial deviates from those answers, the other side will accuse you of lying at worst, and of having an untrustworthy memory at best. Either way, it could hurt your credibility, which is how cases are lost.
- Know your Economics. Economic damages include your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and anything else that you can add up with a calculator. You should know how those numbers are calculated. You won’t need to know your medicals to the penny, but you should know exactly how your lost wages are calculated—know how many days/hours you missed from work, why you missed them, and your pay rate.
- Know your Non-Economics. Non-Economic damages are things that cannot be tabulated exactly with a calculator. These include pain, suffering, inconvenience, scars, pre-impact fright, and disfigurement, to name a few. We tell our clients that, while you should discuss pain with the judge, you cannot rely on it. Everyone feels pain differently, and it is tough for one person to understand the pain of another, unless they have experienced it. Trying to tell the judge about your back pain? It’s not likely to mean much unless that judge has experienced it, unless the judge has a close relationship with someone going through the same thing. Instead, your focus should be on how your injuries affected you—how inconvenient and time-consuming were the doctors’ appointments; were you incapacitated in any way; did it prevent you from interacting with your family in the usual ways? This is the biggest part of your case—the better your testimony, the more likely that the judge will render a higher verdict.
- Prepare for Cross-Examination. We don’t know for sure what questions the defense lawyer will ask. But we have a good idea of 90% of the questions. They will vary depending on the facts of your case. Ask your lawyer, and we can let you know the weak spots of your case, and help to prevent the defense attorney from unfairly exploiting those areas.
It’s usually best not to have anything up on the stand with your—we like you to be able to testify from memory, without notes. Go over the materials as often as you need. Ask as many questions as you need. Make sure your lawyer has everything—all photos from the scene and the vehicles, a full and correct list of your economic damages, and a list of your non-economic damages.
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