How to Prepare a Witness - Sara Williams ESQ

How to Prepare a Witness

January 29, 2021

How to Prepare a Witness for Your Client’s Personal Injury Claim?

Witness testimony is one of the strongest weapons for your client’s personal injury case. If you can get in touch with someone who saw the whole thing and is willing to testify in your favor, you’re in luck! If possible, get as many witnesses as possible on the table.

But things don’t end here; you’ll have to ask them some important questions and prepare them for the judicial roller coaster that awaits. The witnesses may not know how they can help you, but with some patience, you can prepare them well enough.

Here are some valuable tips about preparing a witness for your client’s personal injury case:

Do a Warm-up Question Session Before the Trial

Most newbies would wait until the trial to question the witnesses, but you shouldn’t. The sooner, the better. When you talk to the witnesses briefly after the accident, they’ll be better able to traverse through the lanes of their memory.

Look for witnesses who do not have a bias so that your efforts may not be overruled on this basis. You can become associated professionally, introduce yourself, and make them realize their position and relation with the case.

If they are aware of the misery that your client has been through, they may be more willing to get involved.

Start Informally & Let Them Open Up

Before questioning them professionally, it’s better to keep an informal approach. You should allow the witness to narrate the whole incidence to the best of their memory.

Once they let you in on all the important details, you can use this information to help you with further questioning. Letting the witness speak will surely make them comfortable, and they will open up to you, which is exactly what you need them to do to get the most out of them.

Explore the Details

Make notes for everything the witness tells you, and highlight the important stuff. Re-read your notes and probe further into areas where you want more detail. Asking more questions is not only important for analyzing the case but also for uncovering something you may have missed at first glance.

Try to get their perspective: ask them where they were standing when the accident happened and whether they had a clear view or not.

Keep a comfortable atmosphere during this whole time; remember that comfort equals cooperation for witnesses.

Dig Deeper Into the Disputed Issues

First of all, you should establish where the victim was when the accident happened, how it happened, who was responsible, and why. Be sure to counter-check these observations by asking the same thing from the witnesses to get a clearer image.

This is not because of any mistrust between you and the client but instead a precaution you must take: after all, your client was deeply traumatized at the moment. You’ll also have to dig through any potential bias to avoid compromising your case.

How to Deal With an Uncooperative Witness?

To face the truth, not all the witnesses are highly corporative. If your witness doesn’t want to disclose anything, there are several ways for you to probe them. Try to gain their sympathies by showing how much your client had to go through because of the whole ordeal.

If that doesn’t help, offer to meet them for a cup of coffee and some chit chat. If nothing works, you can issue them a subpoena after consulting with your client. Since it is not the ideal way to call upon someone who can help shape the whole case, you can do some damage control.

Before starting, remind the witness that they’re under oath and that everything they say must be true to their best knowledge. Also ask your client to dress formally, as this would make a good impression and may show the witness just how serious this case is.

Cross-Examining Witnesses

You’ll also have the chance to cross-examine each witness from the other side, and you should make the best of it. Before you start and while you’re still at it, make a note of things that you find intriguing, write some follow-up questions regarding their testimony, and probe into any element of uncertainty in their narrative.

As for the questioning, try to poke some holes into the other side’s case by exploring possibilities that their witness may not be fully aware of the situation or if they’re being deceitful. The most effective way of doing so is to go with leading questions that have the answer embedded into them.

Bottom Line

If you prepare your witness well, study the case thoroughly and notice even the slightest details about the weaknesses in the other’s narrative, you’ll solidify your case substantially. Just remember to communicate well and be as cooperative as you can with your client and witnesses.

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