When testifying in an personal injury case, it is important to know how to be a good witness. This may seem as simple as answering questions when asked, and while this is certainly the basics of testifying, being on the witness stand can involve much more than you may think.
At the scene of the injury
People who have just been injured tend to be overwhelmed and in shock. Help them out by putting your contact information directly into their phone and saying that you are a witness to the injury.
Stay around the scene to make sure your statement is heard. If police ask you what you saw or heard, be specific. Instead of using adjectives like “negligent driving,” describe exactly what made their driving negligent.
Write down what you saw immediately. It could be a few months to a year before you’ll need to describe the events. This exercise will help refresh your memory.
At the witness stand
The most important aspect of testifying in a personal injury case is to tell the truth. When asked a question, answer directly. Make sure that you speak confidently and loudly enough that you can be properly understood. It is easy to become nervous and stumble over your words. Remain calm and take your time to think about your answer if you feel having a few extra seconds will help you respond correctly.
If you did not hear a question properly, or if you do not understand a question, ask for it to be repeated. It is better to admit that you did not hear or do not understand, than to respond inappropriately. If you don’t know the answer to a question or if you can’t remember something, be honest and say so. Don’t make up an answer and say something that you know to be untrue or think could be untrue.
Dress appropriately when testifying. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though you were going to an interview. Wearing professional attire for court establishes a sense of etiquette and respect. Also, you should always be polite and respectful of the judge and other lawyers present. Always be calm and polite.
Remember that it’s not about taking sides—it’s about the truth. If you seem biased, your testimony won’t be as helpful. The most helpful witnesses are the ones who relay what they saw with honesty and detail.
While testifying can be intimidating and sometimes overwhelming, if you follow these tips, you’ll deliver a better testimony that will help to inform the court. When you are acting as a witness, you are helping to make the world a better place. You are helping victims get compensated for their injuries and helping to ensure that accidents don’t occur again.