Going to trial can often be intimidating and uncomfortable. You and your attorney are tasked with presenting your story in such a way that six – or twelve - random strangers agree with your side of what happened. At the same time, the defense attorney and defendant are doing to do everything they can to challenge your credibility and minimize your pain. It’s a daunting challenge for sure. The good news is that if you put in the time and energy to prepare beforehand, you’ll feel much better when you’re there! Rest assured that you won’t be the only one nervous in the courtroom. It’s very possible that the defendant and jurors haven’t been through an experience like this either.
If you have decided to file a lawsuit, then you’ve probably had time to think about what that entails. Chances are that you’ve spent the last few months or years going through discovery, depositions, mediation, and then preparing for trial. If your trial is approaching, congratulations! You'll be able to see a culmination of your efforts and your case may reach its close.
The purpose of litigation is to have jurors decide a fair and equitable outcome of your case. You probably decided to file suit because you and your attorney don’t feel that the insurance company is making offers that are fair for your injuries. You're perfectly entitled to feel that way! It’s important to keep in mind that the jurors are not on your side. They’re supposed to be impartial. They should hear both sides of the story and make a fair and equitable decision based on all the information they receive. The best way to make sure they’ll have a good chance of knowing your side of the story is to make sure that you’re not familiar with what happened and the related medical records and investigative reports, you’re also confident in speaking your truth.
By the time your trial comes, the accident was likely 2-3 years ago. It’s completely normal that you’ve forgotten the details! But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your part to refresh your memory by reviewing the accident reports and photographs. In fact, we strongly encourage you not to rely only on your memory but do the work to get the details down pact.
Do what you can to review what actually happened in the accident as well as your medical treatment that followed. Your attorney can help you by providing the police report, your deposition, and your medical records. Review everything until you feel that you’ve reasonably jogged your memory and can speak to the event with confidence and certainty.
It’s important to keep in mind that the jury will start developing opinions of you and your case before your trial even gets started. This might not seem fair, but it’s human nature. So, it’s best to take advantage of it!
You brought this lawsuit. Which means that everyone is in the courtroom because of you. It’s crucial that you dress the part. Your appearance can either reflect your appreciation and respect for the litigation process or it can give the impression that you don’t care about the trial. If your appearance looks like you don’t care about the trial, then why should the jurors?
Specifically, you should wear your “Sunday Best.” Absolutely no jeans. No t-shirts, leather jackets, sneakers, low-cut shirts, or high-cut skirts. If there’s ever a day when you’re going to pull out your nice dress or suit, the trial is the time!
Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear a suit, a nice skirt or dress. If you have specific questions about your outfit, ask your attorney! Your attorney will be dressed professionally as well and can offer guidance if you’re struggling to find what will work.
Every case is different, but typically you won’t need to bring much to court with you. Your attorney and the other attorney will have all the documents already. If you will feel more comfortable by having your notes with you, then bring your notes. Just know that you probably won’t be able to take them to the stand with you when you testify.
Depending on the trial, most days will be broken up with breaks. Although food and beverages may not be allowed in the courtroom, it’s smart to bring water or some wrapped snacks for the break time. You will likely have a break for lunch where you can leave the building for a period of time – usually an hour or so.
If your trial is in Travis County, there is a cafeteria on the first floor and there are some restaurants within walking distance. If your trial is in Williamson County, then there are plenty of places within driving distance and parking is usually not a problem.
As always, if your attorney gives you other advice or tells you what you should specifically bring, it’s best to follow their direction as they know your case best.
Once the trial begins, you can still work on your preparation. As a party in the lawsuit, you will likely testify at some point. This means that you’ll be called to the stand and questioned by both your attorney and the defense attorney. The questions you’ll be asked will be similar to those from your deposition. Once again, the better you know your case, the better you’ll do. Familiarize yourself with the facts of the accident and all your treatment. For most personal injury trials, your testimony is the most important piece of evidence that will support your case. Aside from facts and what the medical records say, you’ll need to tell the jury what it was like to live through what happened. It can be uncomfortable to tell strangers about your aches and pains. You may feel vulnerable and just want to get off the stand as quickly as possible, but minimizing your pain will only hurt your case. If you do not tell your full story, then the jury is not going to fully understand what you went through and their verdict will reflect as much. So when you’re on the stand, answer as honestly and fully as you can.
There’s a chance that the other party or parties will testify before you. If this happens, try to be aware of your reactions! It could be frustrating to hear the other driver say that you caused the accident when you know you didn’t, but the best thing you can do is wait until your turn to tell your story. When that chance does come, don’t get hostile and try to remain calm. Be attentive and courteous throughout the trial, including when you’re on the stand.
Are you nervous about testifying? That’s completely normal. The formality of giving testimony during a trial can be stressful. Keep in mind that it's just part of the process. If you’re called to the stand, you will be sworn in before the questions begin. The point of your testimony is to give the jurors your recollection of the events. This sets the foundation for what happened.
Preparation is key. Despite the months and years that have passed since the wreck, the jurors want to hear about what happened as if it was yesterday. Not only will you go through details of the accident, but you’ll also go through your treatment and symptoms. This is the time to talk about how much the accident impacted your life. Did your injuries keep you from going to your daughter’s graduation because you couldn’t walk? Did you wake up with pain most days? Did you stop gardening or working on your family’s truck because you could not bend over? Now is the time to let them know.
Most attorneys will ask you to come into the office to prepare you for your testimony at least once. If you can ask for a copy of the medical records and investigative reports ahead of time so you will be familiar with the documents during your trial prep meeting. That way, you and your attorney can focus on presentation and your comfortability instead of spending time reading the documents.
You’ll likely be questioned by both your attorney and the defense attorney. Your attorney will ask questions to paint a picture of what happened, and the defense attorney will ask questions to poke holes in your story and your credibility. Remain courteous throughout your entire time on the stand, despite who is asking you questions and despite what those questions are.
The trial is overwhelming. Litigation can be stressful. Like most things in life, preparation can help you relieve a large part of that stress. From filing the lawsuit up through trial, there are things that you can do to stay ahead of it. The best advice we can give is to be open with your attorney about your fears and expectations and speak your truth to the jury. You made the decision to keep fighting and you and your attorney need to work together to share your story!