I'll tell you in one word...


That's it.
Have a nice day.
That's the end of this article...almost.

Let me explain.

When you bring a lawsuit against someone who was careless who caused you harm and injury, you put your credibility at issue.
How does the defense lawyer know you're telling the truth?
How will a jury know you're telling the truth?

Is it your word against your doctor's word?
Is it your word against a careless driver?
Who is MORE believable?

You or the person you've sued?

When you bring a lawsuit seeking money as a form of compensation for all the harms, losses and injuries you suffered, the defense will research you and your background. They will try and dig up any dirt they can. They WILL test your credibility.

If you lie, even a little white lie, it WILL come back to bite you in the butt.
That little tiny lie can and will destroy your credibility.
Telling a lie at trial will destroy your case.

You should know at the very end of your trial when the judge gives the jury legal instructions, one important and simple instruction goes like this...

"If you find that a witness has testified falsely about one thing, you may disregard some or ALL of their testimony."
The law gives this particular legal instruction a fancy latin name called "FALSUS IN UNO."

That means that if you have told a lie and that lie has been exposed, the defense lawyer is going to highlight that fact to the jury at the end of your trial.

During closing arguments the defense attorney will stand before the jury and say something like

"Ladies and gentlemen, you heard from the injured patient here. He told a long-winded tale. A tale that had a whopper of a lie sandwiched in between the beginning and the end. The judge will tell you that if you believe a witness has lied, even about the smallest little thing, you have every right to disregard ALL of their testimony. If he's lied about the smallest of issues, what makes you believe that he's telling the truth about other matters he testified about here in court?"

You may think your little lie is insignificant.
You may think your lie has nothing to do with the claims you've raised in your case.
You may think the defense will never learn of your lie.

You're wrong, wrong, wrong.

The defense will most certainly learn of your lie.
The defense will turn that little insignificant lie into the focus of their entire defense.
The defense will make it seem as if that tiny little lie is the exact reason why you can't be trusted and they should throw you out of court without a dime.

Let me give you an example of how this might arise...

Let's say in your younger life you did something really stupid.
You robbed a store.
At gunpoint.

You were caught.
You went to trial since you claimed you were not guilty.
A jury didn't agree.

They found you guilty.
The judge sentenced you to jail for ten years.
You served your time.

Ten years after getting out of jail, you received improper medical care from your primary care physician.
That caused you permanent and disabling injuries.
You sued your doctor for medical malpractice.

You've put your younger years and your stupidity behind you.
You have a steady job now.
You have a family now.

Not many of your friends know about your past and that's a good thing.

Your lawyer tells you that his medical expert confirmed you have a good case.
Your lawyer doesn't ask about your past.
He doesn't care.

He's just focused on your current legal problem and  can now proceed forward with your lawsuit against your physician.
During your lawsuit you are required to answer questions put to you by the attorney who represents your doctor.
This is a pretrial question and answer session that takes place in your lawyer's office.

It's an informal setting.
It's going to take place in his conference room.
Your lawyer will be there.

The defense lawyer will be there.
You will be there.
A court stenographer will be there to record all of the questions you're asked and all the answers you give.

Those questions and answers will be transcribed into a booklet called a transcript.
This pretrial question and answer session is also called a deposition or an examination before trial.
Even though it's done in your lawyer's office, the testimony you give carries the same exact weight as if you are testifying a trial.

The main difference between this and trial is that there's no judge present and there's no jury present in the room.

During your questioning, the defense lawyer casually asks "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

You have a horrible flashback of when you were younger and you did something really stupid that landed you in jail for ten years. You immediately think "What does that have to do with my claim against my doctor?" You assume one has nothing to do with the other and instead of answering truthfully, you hide the fact that you were found guilty and sentenced to jail for ten years.

You answer immediately "No, of course not."
The defense attorney quickly moves on to another topic.
The attorney may or may not know you just lied.

He may have already done his background check on you.
If he has, he will likely NOT confront you with this knowledge.
If he hasn't done his background check on you yet, he will and will most certainly learn about your criminal past.

A year or two down the road your case will come up for trial.
During cross examination, the defense lawyer will ask you the same question he asked you during your pretrial questioning.
"Mr. Jones, have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

Again you think "This has nothing to do with my malpractice case."
"No I haven't," you answer quickly.
"ARE YOU SUUURRRE?" the attorney asks in his best Joe Pesci voice.

"Yes, of course I'm sure," you say.
"Your full name is John P. Jones, correct?" he asks.
"Yes," you answer, not knowing where this is going.

"Your date of birth is January 1, 1962, right?" he asks.
"Yes," wondering why he's asking you to confirm this.
"In 1985 you were living at this address...right?" he asks.

"Uh, yes, that's right," you say."
"In 1986 your address changed, right?" he asks.
"Shit," you think. "He knows..."

"Um, yes it did," you now say.
"It appears that you moved from a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to the New York State Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY, right?" he says staring you down.
"Uh yeah," you answer.

"From 1986 until 1996, a total of ten years, you were in prison, isn't that right Mr. Jones?" he demands to know. He's holding up a piece of paper that appears to confirm exactly what he's asking you.
The cat's out of the bag now.
"Yes," you answer.

"Let's look and see how it was that you came to live for ten years in a New York State prison, shall we?" he again asks in his best cross-examination booming voice he can.
He then leads you to the crime you committed.
He gets you to admit you used a gun.

He gets you to admit you pleaded not guilty at your arraignment.
He gets you to acknowledge that you went to trial.
He gets you to admit that twelve members of the community, your jury, found you guilty of all criminal charges.

He then reads each and every criminal charge to the jury.
"GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! to each and every charge," he says.
"YOU WERE CONVICTED OF MULTIPLE CRIMES. Isn't that true Mr. Jones?" he demands to know while waving a piece of paper around.

You quietly and meekly answer "Yes."

That's it.
You're done.
Your credibility is gone.

All because you told a lie.
All because you thought one thing had nothing to do with the other.

Your lie was exposed.
You thought the defense would never know.
You were wrong.

Now your case is at risk.
Now your credibility is shot.
When the jury is asked to evaluate your claims, they must decide whether you are trustworthy.

If you are, despite this lie, you may still have a chance here.
If you're not, your case is over and you'll likely get nothing for your troubles.

To learn more about lying at trial, I invite you to watch the quick video below...

Gerry Oginski
Connect with me
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer