A majority of personal injury claims against insurance companies settle before a complaint is filed in court. Then a large majority of cases in court settle before trial. Thus, the vast majority of people who have been injured will never face testifying in court in front of a jury. As your Oregon injury lawyers, we always make a strong effort to get your case settled before your trial date arrives. But, trials are sometimes certainly needed in order to obtain fair and just results.
For those fortunate few who do face testifying at trial, we have some advice:
1. Talk to your trial attorney about what to expect and to get your attorney’s advice. No general information in this blog or from any other source can substitute for talking with your attorney. Some attorneys want their witnesses to keep answers short while others want their witnesses to show the jury how likeable and forthcoming they are. Either approach can work in different situations. What you and your attorney don’t want, however, is for the attorney to expect one approach and for you to expect the other. These issues should be worked out well before you testify.
2. Be honest. We’d hope this one would be so obvious that it wouldn’t need to be said. Our experience shows that it does need repeating. You’re under oath so you have a legal and moral duty to tell the truth. It also helps your case because – put plainly – juries hate liars and treat them very harshly, which is appropriate. You should be honest for the sake of honesty, but it’s always easier to remember the truth.
3. Also be honest about what you don’t know or don’t remember. No one expects you to have a super-human memory in the face of the stress of testifying at trial. It’s perfectly fine to not remember details like what day of the week it was or when you woke up two years before.
4. Look at the jury as you testify. It’s generally best to look at the jury at least sometimes as you answer questions. You want to establish eye contact because the jury wants to be able to assess you as a person. They can’t do this as well if all they see is the side or even the back of your head as you describe what has happened.
5. Pay attention and control your reactions throughout trial. The jurors pay as much attention to the parties as they do to the attorneys, though the parties sometimes only testify for a few minutes. This means as you’re sitting at the table during the trial jurors will notice if you’re looking bored, rolling your eyes . . . or are engaged and mature. We know that our clients can’t control their emotions – so you’ll feel something if another witness is lying or degrading you – but parties need to do their best to control how they react in the courtroom.
|Top Five Trial Testimony Tips|
|1. Get advice and feedback from your lawyer.|
|2. Be honest.|
|3. Be honest about what you’ve forgotten.|
|4. Look at the jury.|
|5. Don’t get too emotional or angry.|