Most people are nervous at the prospect of being in a courtroom, especially when it relates to their own case. Television and film have created an image that is intimidating and unnerving. The mystique of a jury trial will cause anxiety for even the strongest of heart.
When my cases are ready for trial, I let the clients know well in advance. I expect that they participate and prepare for the trial as this is their only opportunity to be compensated. Naturally, each client wants to be sure that they are well prepared for their testimony.
I start with providing them with a copy of their deposition transcript. The transcript sets forth most questions that will be asked during Direct and Cross Examination.
Most automobile cases involve 3 basic themes: 1) who are the players (the “parties) – basic pedigree information that serves to let the jury know about the witness’ family and work life, educational background, etc; 2) what are the facts concerning how the accident occurred (“liability”); 3) and, in a separate and subsequent trial, the injuries and loss that the client sustained (“damages).
The focus on “liability” will turn on a description of the location of the vehicles, the roadway, the weather, road signs, lights, traffic devices, damage to vehicles, etc. Photographs can be especially useful during this phase of the trial. Large blown up photos are easy for jury to see, but it is best to use a projector to display all photographic imagery.
The client will be prepared for days before the trial actually begins. I will go over the testimony many times until the answers roll off the client’s tongue! Any spots where there seems to be trouble, I will continue to prepare until the answers are direct, clear, and natural.
The client will be instructed to dress conservatively, to get plenty of rest, and to study the deposition transcripts. We will practice how the opposing attorney will cross examine the client (and also practice holding your composure and responding to the questions in a calm manner).
The next blog will deal with the damages phase of the trial.