The vast majority of car accident victims never go to court. Only about four to five percent of personal injury cases of any kind end up going to trial. The rest are able to settle their case with the insurance company outside of court. So if you're one of the minority of car accident victims whose case ends up going to trial, it might catch you by surprise. To win your case, you're going to need to be an effective witness when you're put on the stand to describe what happened during the accident and what injuries you sustained. Testifying in court can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with some preparation, you can learn how to testify effectively and win your case. Take a look at some tips that can help you make a good impression on the witness stand.
Tell the Truth
Sure, telling the truth on the witness stand sounds like common-sense advice that you shouldn't even have to think about. But it can be more difficult than you realize. Your memory of the accident may be muddled – something that's completely understandable after a traumatic event – and it can be easy for your mind to fill in the blanks with what you think must have happened, instead of what actually happened. You may also subconsciously be inclined to spin the facts in your favor.
Take the time to think about what actually happened, and describe it to your attorney in detail ahead of time. This will help you cement your testimony in your mind, and you can compare it to the physical evidence to make sure that your version of events matches the known facts. When you're on the stand, don't be afraid to say, "I don't know," or "I don't remember" if that's the case. Forgetting a detail is understandable, but if you answer with an inaccurate detail, that will stay in the official record and make you look like a less-than-credible witness if later evidence contradicts what you say. It's always better to admit that you don't remember or disclose a detail that might harm your case than it is to be caught saying something untrue.
Don't Volunteer Information
While it's important to answer the questions that you're asked truthfully, it's just as important not to answer questions that no one has asked you. Listen carefully to the questions you're asked, and take a moment to think about the information being requested before you answer. (Pausing for a moment will not only help you collect your thought, it will give your attorney, someone from a firm like Hardee and Hardee LLP, time to object in the event that the question was improper.)
If you've been asked a yes or no question, just say "yes," or "no," and don't elaborate. If the attorney asking the questions needs more detail, they will let you know. If the attorney asks you whether you were turning right or left, tell them the direction, but don't go on to explain what happened after you made the turn. Offering more information than you've been asked to provide is a bad strategy in court – you could easily end up volunteering information that hurts your case that wouldn't have come up otherwise.
Don't Get Angry
When you watch courtroom dramas on television, you may see witnesses responding with anger to provocative questions from opposing attorneys. This may make for great TV, but it's not great in actual courtrooms. Responding with anger makes you appear to be out of control and untrustworthy.
Keep in mind that the opposing attorney is just doing his or her job, and don't take anything they say personally. If you feel your temper rising, take deep breaths, count to ten before you answer, or visualize something calming. Remember that the end goal isn't to get the best of the opposing attorney with a snappy comeback, it's to convince the judge and jury that you're a reliable and truthful witness who deserves compensation for your injuries. The best way to do that is to keep your cool.
When you're facing a trial, you need an attorney who's experienced in trial law to help prepare you for your day in court. Because most personal injury cases settle, not all car accident lawyers have extensive experience in court. Choose a car accident attorney in your area who has a winning courtroom record for the best chance of winning your case.