You’ve worked with your lawyer and have gone through all of the litigation steps. Now you have decided to take your case to trial. Getting a trial date can take some time, so be patient. When you finally have your court date try to remain calm and continue to follow your lawyer’s instructions to the letter.
Appearance and Demeanor
Regardless of the reason why you at trial, it’s important that you present yourself in the best possible light. Be on time and look presentable.
Your lawyer will let you know what time to arrive and the location within the courthouse. Remember that courthouses are similar to airports and have security measures you have to go through. Since security can take extra time, don’t risk being late – arrive early. Your appearance is equally as important as arriving on time. It’s human nature that the jury will check out your appearance. Dress conservatively, in flat shoes, neutral colors and don’t wear any flashy jewelry. It’s also a good idea to cover any tattoos or body piercings.
Now, let’s talk demeanor. Make sure you are calm, collected and well rested. Show respect for the court at all times. Refrain from talking when the judge is talking and always stand when the judge enters the courtroom. Be mindful that the jury will be watching your every move throughout the trial, even outside of the courtroom. Often cases are lost because of bad behavior on breaks or in the restroom when members of the jury are present; so remember, you are always being observed.
Before going to court over your lawsuit, your lawyer will have already walked you through all of the details. You will most likely have to take the witness stand and answer questions from both your own lawyer and from the defendant’s lawyer, each taking turns. When your lawyer is questioning you, it’s called direct examination. When the other lawyer is questioning you, it’s called cross examination. Sometimes, your lawyer will question you again to clarify points, this is called re-direct examination.
It’s important that the jury hears from you directly because trials are personal. The jury has been watching you and now it’s time for them to hear from you. Generally, the side that tells the story clearly and directly will be the one the jury will side with.
When it’s your turn, your lawyer will question you first, so when you take the stand, be yourself. Talk clearly and only show emotion if it’s genuine and not exaggerated. Pay close attention to each question being asked and answer them honestly and clearly. It’s important that you appear likable. Your lawyer will not throw any trick questions at you or any questions you don’t already know, so try to remain calm.
Next, the defendant’s attorney will ask you questions in the cross examination. The defense will compare your in-court testimony to everything you have said about your case. This includes history given to your doctors and any sworn statements. Answer the questions that are asked and nothing more. And we mean nothing more! Stay silent and wait for the next question. Remember, the jury is judging your credibility with every word you speak.
Next up, we’ll talk about your lawsuit’s closing arguments, verdicts vs. judgments and settlements.