Testimony in a North Carolina personal injury trial is fairly rare, as clients often settle their cases and do not get a chance to testify in court. Cases can settle early during the discovery process or after depositions. Parties can settle during the later stages and up to and including the day of trial. [North Carolina Judicial Branch]
Testimony is the opportunity to tell the court and jury about the injury, the resulting life changes, and the physical and emotional impact. It is an important time for many injured persons to finally share their lived experiences. The below-listed items provide useful tips for testimony in a personal injury case.
– First, tell the truth.
Witnesses must swear to tell the truth, and this is the first and most important part of the testimony. When a witness raises his or her hand to swear to tell the truth, there is an obligation to do just that. Your lawyer or personal injury law firm will advise you to tell the truth.
In injury cases, it is often necessary to describe the events that led to the injury, the medical care afterward, and the pain and suffering experienced. Honesty is critical to the value of testimony. The judge and jury are there to hear your evidence and decide the case. The court and jury must accept the testimony and rely on it when deciding liability and when a court or jury awards damages.
– Second, listen carefully to the questions.
An experienced personal injury attorney or personal injury law firm spends many hours preparing your case. The courtroom attorney will ask questions in a carefully designed pattern to bring the key facts fully to the court and jury. The answers should tell what you remember about each question. It is important to say truthfully that you do not remember something.
– Three, only answer the question asked.
Testifying before a judge and jury has a purpose. The goal is to create a picture of the events that led to an injury. The clear path to that goal is in small answers to specific questions. Witnesses that wander to other subjects, reflect on their feelings, or other random thoughts can confuse the court.
An experienced trial lawyer will cover the best way to answer questions during preparation for the trial. Witnesses that have not testified before can create a more difficult task than exists by going beyond what is asked.
– Four, communicate with the Jury.
When answering questions, you should look at the jury from time to time. It is important to let the jurors see you as you relate your information. The views will help the jury consider you as a whole person and beyond the facts of the events and injuries.
Jury members often pay very close attention to the witness’s appearance during testimony and to the plaintiff during the trial. Attorneys wisely advise their clients to control their outward reactions. The jury members can form impressions of witnesses from reactions and appearances as much as from the words spoken in testimony. Jurors will notice reactions to questions, testimony, and trial events.
– Five, don’t act; be yourself.
Witnesses can try to use effort to be persuasive. They can speak differently than they normally might or use words that they feel are impressive. These behaviors are similar to acting on a stage. The courtroom is not a stage and there are no rewards for acting. Trust your attorneys to prepare your evidence by reviewing the facts, information, and questions before trial.
When testifying, there is no need to try to impress anyone or do anything out of the ordinary. A trial judge and jury have a responsibility to listen and try to understand your testimony. The best advice your attorney or personal injury law firm can give is to just be yourself and you will be fine.