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Definition - What does Testimony mean?

To win a personal injury case at trial the plaintiff will need to present enough evidence or a preponderance of evidence so the court is convinced the defendant should be held legally responsible for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff.

Evidence can include:

  • Police reports
  • Medical records
  • Repair estimates
  • Witness statements
  • Physical evidence (i.e., photographs, documents, and medical reports)

But perhaps one of the most important pieces of evidence for proving any personal injury claim is witness testimony.

When do you need witness testimony?

If you have decided not to negotiate with the insurance company and you take your injury case to court one type of key evidence is witness testimony. Witness testimony allows both the plaintiff and the defendant to call individuals to testify on their behalf.

The plaintiff has the responsibility to prove their case so they will call a variety of witnesses to outline details of the case. The goal of witness testimony is to prove the defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff's injuries and damages.

For example, if you have been injured due to the medical negligence of a healthcare provider having a medical expert testify could be critical to winning your claim, especially if you need to prove that a doctor acted in a manner which was medically negligent.

Testimony process at trial

In a personal injury trial each witness will be sworn in and required to tell the truth.

The plaintiff's attorney will ask the witness questions through a process called direct examination. After the plaintiff's attorney has finished asking questions the defense attorney is allowed to cross examine them, asking them a series of questions to attack their credibility or discredit their testimony.

Finally, the prosecuting attorney may have the opportunity to re-direct or ask more questions to clear up testimony made during cross-examination.

After this process is complete the defense witnesses have their turn to provide testimony which should refute testimony provided by the plaintiff's witnesses.

Finally, the plaintiff will have a chance to respond through a rebuttal.

After all evidence has been presented, both sides, the plaintiff and the defendant, "rest" and agree that they are done offering evidence.

What do I do if I am called to offer testimony?

If you are called to testify at a personal injury trial it is important to follow a few simple steps. First, make sure to refresh your memory about the events in question. Write down anything meaningful, including dates, times, and persons involved. Do not memorize your testimony. You do not want to sound like a robot. Speak your own words.

Always dress appropriately for court. Speak clearly and enunciate. Talk slowly and clearly so that all members of the jury can hear you. Take the case seriously. Do not discuss it before or after the trial.

Most importantly, tell the truth. Do not exaggerate. If you do not remember an element of the case or what has been asked tell the questioner you do not know or do not remember.

Hopefully, prior to the trial, you will have the chance to discuss your questions with a lawyer.

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