Giving testimony in a car accident case, or any case, is a daunting prospect—even for experienced trial attorneys. It is never a nice feeling knowing that no matter how true your testimony may be, there will be an opposing attorney asking you questions during a cross-examination that aims to discredit your story or, worse, make it seem that you are lying.
From our vast experience examining and cross-examining witnesses, we have learnt what separates a good witness from a bad witness and would like to share it with you.
If you are ever required to give testimony in a car accident case, here are some handy tips to ensure you testify successfully and help your case.
Only Answer the Questions Asked and Make Sure You Understand It
Do not divulge information to the other side’s attorney, even though it is their job to extract information from you. The more details you share, the greater the risk your opponent will get information that can harm your case and help themselves. Best to give short and concise answers! Long winded answers only bring on more questions. Answer the question you were asked and stop talking.
Give a Good Impression of Yourself
As the lawyer is assessing your likeability and credibility (and more importantly, the judge and jury), so try to leave a good impression. Keep calm and try not to get annoyed or angry. It is fine to get sincerely emotional when testifying. One of the aims of giving testimony is to let everyone watching know what a good, amiable and credible individual you are. Also, please dress appropriately and come to court conservatively dressed and well-groomed. People will be forming an opinion of you.
Give Accurate Answers
Do not speculate, guess, or give your hunch. Only say what you are sure is true since you will be giving testimony under oath. Then again, do not use this as an excuse not to state the facts you know.
Avoid Giving Definite Answers If You Are Unsure
Using phrases like “always”, “never” or “absolutely” is never a good idea when giving testimony. Such phrases are too absolute and can lead to the opposing attorney doubting your credibility if you cannot back up your claims.
Tell the Truth
It’s vitally important that you tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Remember, you are sworn to give 100% truthful testimony in court. Keep in mind that attorneys can research and verify lots of things using the internet. Surveillance may be used to keep track of your activities and subpoenas may be used to get information about your past. Being caught having given false testimony, inadvertently or not, can kill or harm your case. Honesty is the best policy!
Scrutinize Documents Carefully Before Giving Testimony About Them
Testimonies often involve using documents such as police reports, other documents of the case, medical records, photographs, tax returns, pay stubs, and so on. If you are asked questions about a certain document, go through it carefully before answering the questions. Slow down and make sure you have a handle on what you are looking at.
Explain Yourself If Necessary
Attorneys often ask questions that may be readily answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. While you are free to give a “yes” or “no” answer as a witness, you should give an explanation if required, just to be clear.
Do Not Look to Others for the Answer
You must answer what you know. Do not look for cue’s or to others for answers. If you don’t know an answer – say so. You do not have to be a perfect witness. Just tell the truth, slow down, and be yourself. If you need a second to collect your thoughts or take a break, say so as the judge will usually give you some time as he or she usually understands the stress that being on the witness stand brings a person. You will do fine!