What Should I Do When I Testify?
As the best personal injury lawyer in Miami and South Florida would advise you when it comes to your testimony, just tell the truth. But there are particular strategies and techniques that can help you present your testimony in the best light possible. It is the job of your personal injury litigation attorney to prepare you and guide you before your deposition or trial testimony.
The first step is preparation. You should review all the relevant documents of your case before your deposition. The lawyer will explain the format of the deposition and who will be asking the questions. Part of your preparation is knowing what to wear.
Understand that your appearance will be evaluated in a deposition and in trial. It is part of human nature to not only listen to what someone says but also how they look. Your clothes, hair style, grooming and overall appearance will be taken into account.
In the personal injury business, most cases fit into certain categories depending on the type of injury. Insurance defense attorneys can handle 75-125 cases at any given time. The one thing the medical records and accident report cannot reflect is the type of witness you might be at trial.
Every defense lawyer provides a report to the insurance adjuster after a deposition. One of the key parts of the lawyer’s evaluation is the demeanor and appearance of the witness. The insurance company wants to know:
- Speech patterns
- Eye contact
- Education level
- Will a jury like this witness
- Whether a jury will find the witness believable
- Ability to withstand pressure
- Ability to control anger or emotions
- Overall presentation
In personal injury cases without clear objective signs of injury such as a fracture or surgery, much of the plaintiff’s case will hinge on the believability of the plaintiff. If a jury doesn’t like or trust the plaintiff, even the best personal injury trial lawyer in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach won’t be able to help win the case.
Most insurance defense lawyers try to win by using the strategy of “death by a thousand cuts”. They will build upon an exaggeration then an omission followed by a lie. They will draw out incomplete answers. Each one of these might be insignificant – like a paper cut. But a thousand paper cuts can kill a case.
What can you do to make sure you testify to the best of your ability? Our personal injury lawyers recommend:
- Dress appropriately. This might be best described as your Sunday best or business casual.
- Be properly groomed. Think of it like an interview.
- Sit straight and use good posture
- Be polite and respectful
- Speak clearly
- Make eye contact
- Take your time to answer the question
- Only answer the question asked. Do not volunteer information
- Do not argue with the other lawyer
- Do not get into a conversation with the other attorney. They are skilled questioners and they are there to gather evidence to ultimately defeat your claim. Don’t ever forget that fact.
- If you need a break, say so. A deposition is not an endurance contest.
- Do not guess at anything. Saying you don’t know or don’t recall are perfectly acceptable answers.
- Beware of silence. Trained lawyers will allow silence to linger after your answer and wait for you to fill that void. It is human nature to say something but during your deposition, you need to resist that reaction.
- If you are making an estimate, say so.
- If you are testifying to the best of your recollection then say so.
- Avoid absolutes. Don’t testify in black and white but rather shades of gray.
- Make sure you complete your answer. Do not allow yourself to be cut off
- Listen to your lawyer. During a deposition that is the only friend that you have in that room
- Your attorney may tell you to not to answer a particular question. If he or she does that, don’t argue or overrule them. Just follow their instruction. You can discuss it later. But in that moment, stay quiet.
- Listen to the question and any objections carefully.
- Remember you are there as your best witness. For the lawyers, this is just business. It isn’t personal. Just tolerate the experience and get through it the best that you can.
While you might have a fair amount of anxiety and stress before your deposition, once it is complete you will realize it wasn’t so bad after all. Understand that your deposition is a key and important part of your lawsuit. Most cases will not settle until the plaintiff testifies and the insurance defense lawyer has made their reports.
If you have any questions about your slip and fall injury or car accident, you can call the accident and injury lawyers at Wolfson & Leon. We offer free consultations. Just call us at (305) 285-1115 and let us answer your questions today.