When you bring a civil lawsuit, there are no guarantees. You could win. You could lose. You could get a lot of money. You could get little. You might get nothing. No guarantees. Here are 3 ways you can improve the chances you'll have a successful outcome when giving pretrial testimony during your lawsuit.
Notice I said improve your chances of a successful outcome.
I did not say three ways to obtain a successful outcome.
As you know, no attorney can never guarantee a particular result. If they do, I would strongly recommend running in the other direction.
In any type of civil lawsuit where you are seeking compensation for the harms, losses and injuries you suffered because of someone else's carelessness, you must show that you are more likely right than wrong that what you are claiming is true.
The reality is that you could have the best case in the world.
If you take that case to trial there is always the possibility a jury could throw you out of court without any money.
There is always the possibility you could lose your case even with great witnesses, great liability and great evidence.
Likewise, you might have a marginal case and a jury could find in your favor and give you a significant amount of money as compensation.
Today, I want to share with you three tips that I think will help you improve the chances you might have a successful outcome in your civil lawsuit here in New York.
By no means is this an exclusive list, but merely a sampling of those things I think will immediately help you.
You should also know that I have formulated this list after being in practice for almost 28 years handling accident cases, medical malpractice cases and wrongful death cases here in New York.
1. Tell no lies
2. Be as sweet as you can be.
3. Do not exaggerate, Ever.
You might think these three things are common sense and anybody should know that. Well, they are common sense but not everybody knows it.
There are some litigants who decide, for whatever reason, that they need to tell little white lies about their past.
That's a big no-no.
Those little white lies can actually come back to haunt you and destroy your entire case.
Some litigants believe when they're asked questions about their injuries and damages, it can't hurt to overstate them and exaggerate. Once again, this is a big no-no.
In order to show that we are more likely right than wrong that you suffered significant injury or harm, not only do we need your testimony, but we need your treating doctors to testify about your injuries and how disabling they are.
If you exaggerate the extent of your injuries, there will be some notation in some doctor's record to contradict what you are claiming in your lawsuit.
The moment the defense attorney identifies a significant contradiction, he will use that to destroy your credibility.
You should also know that your credibility is the key to your entire case.
If your credibility is attacked and there is evidence to support contradictions between what you have testified to at trial and what is contained in your medical records, the defense lawyer will make you out to look like a liar.
In a jury trial, the jury must decide whether you are believable.
They must decide whether you, your evidence, your witnesses and your testimony is credible.
If you are not believable, the judge will tell the jury that they have every right to disregard some or all of your testimony.
(That legal instruction is known by the Latin phrase 'falsus in uno'!)
The same is true for other witnesses as well.
That's why your credibility means everything in your lawsuit.
When I say that you should be sweetest possible, I don't mean to be saccharine and overly bubbly.
Instead, you need to be genuine.
You need to try and have a pleasant disposition.
You don't want to come across as being vengeful.
You don't want to come across as being hateful. Y
ou don't want to come across as being angry.
You may feel those things because of your injuries, but you need to show the jury who you really are.
The jury needs to see you are an otherwise sweet, pleasant person here seeking justice for what has befallen you, through no fault of your own.
Those litigants who come to court with vengeance on their face tend not to generate much sympathy.
Litigants who are perpetually angry at the world for what happened to them likewise have difficulty generating sympathy with the jury.
Believe me, it's understandable that you have those feelings.
However, you're now relying on six members of the community who do not know you to find in your favor that the driver was careless, or maybe your doctor violated the basic standards of medical care causing you significant injury.
The more sympathetic you are, the more empathy the jury is likely to feel for your condition.
You should also know that at the end of the trial, the judge will instruct the jury on what the law is in New York as it applies to your particular case.
You need to know that one of the legal instructions the judge will tell the jury is not to make a decision based upon sympathy for you.
"No Sympathy," the judge will explain.
That's entirely understandable.
If the jury were to base their decision solely on whether they feel bad for you, every injured victim would likely receive a substantial verdict in their favor.
That's why you must be genuine when you come into court.
You must be authentic.
You must recognize these jurors have no axe to grind.
They're coming into court on a level playing field.
It is our job to convince these jurors that we are more likely right than wrong that the people whom you sued were careless and caused you injury.
During the course of your lawsuit you will need to appear for a question and answer session in your attorneys office.
You will be questioned by the defense lawyer.
Legally, this is known as a deposition.
It's also called an examination before trial.
This is really pre-trial testimony.
It carries the same exact weight as if you are testifying at trial.
In your attorney's office, a court reporter will be present to record all of the defense lawyer's questions and all of your answers.
All of the questions you are asked and all of your answers will be transcribed into a booklet known as a deposition transcript.
This question and answer session is the first real opportunity the defense lawyer has to see you, hear you and get to know who you are and what problems you had.
You should know that after your deposition is finished, the defense lawyer goes back to his office and prepares a detailed report to his insurance company.
Part of his report will contain important observations he made about you and your temperament.
Are you angry?
Are you upset?
Are you pleasant?
Importantly, he will come to his own conclusion about what type of witness you will be if this case goes to trial.
He relays that information to the claims examiner handling your case for the insurance company.
Believe it or not, how you come across as a potential witness at trial is a very important observation that he makes.
If he reports back that a jury is likely going to love you, you have scored several points that will help you in your quest for seeking a successful outcome in your case.
Remember, this guarantees nothing.
Instead, it helps you from a settlement negotiation standpoint if the defense begins settlement discussions.
The defense lawyer is also looking to see if there are any obvious contradictions between information contained in his records, your medical records and testimony you have given in response to his questions.
If there is no evidence of you having a exaggerated, you are ahead of the game.
If there is no evidence of you telling any outward lie, once again you are ahead of the game.
These three tips will help you in your quest for justice.
To learn even more about how these civil lawsuits work here in New York, I invite you to watch the quick video below...