Your Testimony in Personal Injury Litigation
Your case usually begins with your testimony, both on direct and cross examination. Your testimony is perhaps the most important part of the trial. No matter how skillful and prepared the lawyer is, if the jury does not like or does not believe you, the result will not be favorable.
Direct examination involves your testimony in response to your lawyer’s questions. The initial questions typically are simple and concern background information, such as education, family, and employment. These simple questions give you a chance to relax on the witness stand in the role of plaintiff. They also provide the jury with information that may help them relate to you. Your lawyer wants the jury to like you so that it will want to compensate you generously for the losses and damages you suffered in the accident.
After the initial background questions, the testimony might turn to the facts of the accident. Your lawyer attempts to elicit a favorable and believable recitation of these facts. Hopefully, this will fix a version of the accident in the jury’s mind that will stay cemented in place all the way through to the conclusion of the jury’s deliberations.
After testifying about the accident, your lawyer may ask you to discuss how you felt physically and emotionally at the accident scene and whether emergency room treatment was required. If the defendant made statements at the scene, this would be an appropriate place for them to come into evidence. Even a simple apology from the defendant at the scene can influence the jury’s view of liability for the accident.
The testimony then moves to the days and weeks following the accident. Eventually, the jury will hear about the full course of medical treatment and, of course, how you are currently feeling. You may testify about the effect the accident has had on your life and on your family. Employment losses are also examined. Any other relevant aspect of your losses and damages are discussed before the conclusion of direct testimony.
Your lawyer may attempt during direct testimony to take the sting out of unfavorable evidence. If, for example, you have a preexisting medical condition that calls into question the causal relationship between the accident and the injury claim, your lawyer may gently ask you about this medical condition during direct. This gives you the opportunity to discuss the prior condition and perhaps explain the effect the accident had on you. This can defuse an otherwise troublesome aspect of the case. By confronting the problem directly, you avoid the situation in which the jury first hears about the damaging information during the defense lawyer’s accusatory questioning. This preemptive strike takes some of the wind out of the other lawyer’s sails.