Trial preparation should start at least 6 months before trial. You will need to discuss with your lawyer who you want to call as witnesses to the trial. There will be obvious witnesses such as your family doctor and treatment providers. You will likely have a number of ‘expert’ witnesses who have prepared reports for your lawyer. These might include expert witnesses such as neurologists, physiatrists, orthopaedic specialists, vocational and functional experts as well as economists. In addition to the ‘professional’ witnesses, it is important for you to identify witnesses that will be able to assist the court in understanding the changes in your lifestyle that have occurred as a result of your injuries. Such witnesses will often include close family members such as your spouse, children or parents. Others would include your co-workers, supervisors at work, and friends. Anyone who knew you before your car accident and can speak to how your injuries have had an impact on how you cope day-to-day is a potential witness for you.
As part of your preparation for trial, you will want to sit down with your lawyer and work on the ‘narrative’ that you want to present to the judge. Remember, you will likely only be on the witness stand for a day or so, and the person who is hearing your case knows nothing about you before you take the witness stand. You will have a relatively short time to introduce yourself to the judge and explain how your accident and injuries have impacted your life and your future. People respond to stories with a beginning, middle and end; that is something that you need to prepare with your lawyer for presentation to the court.
Even though you are in trial, there is nothing preventing you from discussing settlement with the other side. Often, the insurance companies will let matter get close to trial to see if the Plaintiff is going to carry through with the threat of trial. Once you are close to a trial starting, the insurance company will want to provide better settlement terms rather than risk an adverse (and certainly uncertain) result at trial.
When you attend at the trial, dress conservatively – you should dress as if you are going to a job interview or how you would dress to go to a place of worship. It goes without saying that you should tell the truth and be totally honest in your evidence. Although your lawyer will be the one asking you the questions, you should direct your responses to the judge, as that is the person that needs to hear your story. When the lawyer for the at-fault driver (i.e. the insurance company lawyer) asks you questions (this is known as cross-examination), try to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and do not embellish your answers or argue with the other lawyer. The judge will be watching you carefully to see if you are being honest and forthright – be so.
At the end of the day, trials risk putting your case in front of an unknown person who will be bringing their own views and opinions to your case. However, if you are honest and forthright, most judges on most days will find a way to assist you with a fair result. In my experience it is important to ‘say what you mean, and mean what you say’. This means that your lawyer must be a ‘trial lawyer’ and someone that the insurance industry knows that when your lawyer says they will go to trial unless a fair settlement amount is offered, they mean it. Pick your lawyer carefully – make sure that it is someone who is experienced, respected and will go to trial for you if necessary.
Contact our firm to discuss your case. We have a wealth of experience devoted exclusively to injury claims and can use that expertise for your situation.