Being a Good Witness
Should your personal injury claim to go trial, you will most assuredly be called to testify. You should not feel overly concerned for this fact, but it is important to know what will establish you as a credible witness. Your attorney will provide you with detailed guidelines prior to your appearance in court, but the following should give you a fair idea of what to expect.
Tips to Keep in Mind during Testimony
One of the most important ways you can help your case is to not lose your temper. Defense attorneys know this, and will try different means to get under your skin. If you believe that the defense attorney is badgering you while you are on the stand, react civilly. If you can remain in control during a tough cross-examination, you stand a good chance of impressing the jurors.
It is also important to listen to each question carefully and not rush to give an answer. It is important that you wait for the defense attorney or judge to finish the question before answering; don’t simply assume what the question will be.
You should be sure to make appropriate eye contact with jurors as you speak. Jurors tend to regard witnesses who give great eye contact as more believable. Don’t stare, however. Rather, look at them as you would a close relative or friend as you speak. Similarly, when you answer don’t look at your attorney. Doing so may give jurors the impression that he is coaching you.
Make sure to answer questions with a clear voice and respond with words such as “no” and “yes.” A shrug of the shoulders or “uh-huh” is not considered an answer in a court of law. You may feel nervous, particularly when you first take the stand. This is natural. Jurors expect a degree of nervousness on your part and won’t conclude nervousness signals dishonesty. Once you begin your testimony, you will become more comfortable.
Make sure, however, that you don’t become overly animated in your answers. You don’t want jurors to think you are putting on a performance. Jurors pick up on phony gestures.
Finally, be truthful in your answers. This is very important. There is no such thing as a perfect case; it is better that you are honest about certain facts that may reflect unfavorably on your case than to be caught exaggerating or minimizing.