Tips For Winning at Trial

Gavel and the scales of justice with a blurry image of book shelves in the background.

Young attorneys, we were once in your shoes!  Each trial is unique and going to trial can be daunting early on in your career.  If you’re trying a case, here are our top tips for being successful at trial.

Prepare Yourself

It may seem obvious, but preparing yourself is the number one tip to being successful at trial.  Prepare yourself with knowledge of all the deposition testimony and discovery responses.  Be intimately familiar with the facts of the case.  You should never have to look at a piece of paper in trial unless it is to introduce that document as an exhibit.  You should know your case like the back of your hand, inside and out, better than anyone else in the room.

Subpoena the Witnesses

Most likely you will be in close communication with your witnesses, but make sure to subpoena them as well.  Subpoenas give your witnesses an official legal excuse from work and ensures they will show up to trial.  From the plaintiff’s side, don’t always assume the defendant is going to show up for trial.  If you are going to call the defendant as a witness, subpoena him/her as well.

Use Pre-Trial Motions to Your Advantage

Motions in limine are those you can use ahead of trial to get the judge to rule on certain issues that may come up during the trial. These motions seek to limit evidence that is irrelevant, inadmissible or prejudicial to your client. Identify the important issues in your case.  If there is something that needs to be addressed by the court or can be addressed by the court ahead of time, file those motions.  Whether you win or lose those motions, you can adjust your strategy knowing what evidence or topics can or cannot be introduced at trial.

Pre-Organize Your Exhibits

Once you know what evidence is coming in or not, make sure your evidence is redacted appropriately, pre-labeled, pre-marked, and organized in the order in which you plan to introduce those records at trial.  Trial notebooks and exhibit lists are helpful.  Make sure all of this is done ahead of time and ready to go before the trial begins.  If you are using technology, make sure you have everything scanned in to your computer so you are not relying on an internet connection.

Know Your Judges Preferences

Every judge is different and has his or her own style on how the trial will be conducted.  Don’t be afraid to call or email the staff attorney to see how the judge handles certain things before trial begins. 

Prepare the Jury

In our opinion, jury selection is the most important part of a trial.  You should prepare for jury selection just as much as you do for the trial itself.  Don’t be afraid to talk about the issues of your case in jury selection.  If you don’t get an unbiased jury sitting in the jury box, your case is done before you even give an opening statement.  You must have open and honest dialogues with potential jurors about their feelings on certain issues.  One question a great attorney out of Savannah, Jeff Harris, once told us and we try to use with jurors is, “If you were injured due to the fault of somebody else, would you have any hesitation bringing a lawsuit against them?” If someone has hesitation, they are probably going to be a bad juror for you as a plaintiff.  Be prepared to ask tough questions to tease out biases potential jurors might have when dealing with a client that has previous injuries or preexisting conditions, etc.  You might also have to touch on more sensitive issues hot button political issues, gender, and race — whatever happens to be involved in your case.  If you’re worried something might be an issue for jurors, it probably is and needs to be addressed in jury selection.

Prepare Your Client

Preparing your client doesn’t mean you tell them what to say.  Preparing your client means to give them the knowledge and understanding of what the situation is actually going to be like when they are sitting on the witness stand.  What sort of questions can they anticipate?  Reassure them they can stick up for themselves.  Remind them to be polite. 

Prepare Your Cross Examinations

Preparing early will allow you to succinctly cross examine your witnesses.  We like to start preparing by writing out the story or narrative you want to give the jury.  Then break that down into leading questions you can ask the witnesses to tell the story.  You don’t want to argue with witnesses or get off on a tangent.  Consider what information you want and need from each witness and prepare accordingly to control the witness during your cross.

Limit Your Objections

Be selective with objections in trial unless it is something just egregious.  You are not necessarily limited to how many objections you can make, but the more you object as a plaintiff attorney, the more the jury might think you are trying to hide something.  You can also be more selective with your objections when you file the proper motions and deal with any evidentiary issues you might have ahead of time, pre-trial.

Check Out the Courthouse and Familiarize Yourself with the Environment

If you can, go to the courthouse before the trial and familiarize yourself with the space.  Find out what kind of technology is available, where the televisions are located, etc.  Rural counties might not have the best technology available so know what you are able to work with ahead of time.  If your client is able, take him/her with you to the courthouse ahead of time.  Most clients have never been in a courtroom before.  Let your client sit in the witness box and familiarize themselves with the space.  This usually helps your client feel a bit more comfortable when it is time for trial.

Be Respectful of the Jurors’ Time

Jurors were summoned; they didn’t volunteer to be in court.  They are taking time out of their lives and not getting paid much to be there.  Let the jurors know you have a duty to be there and you’re going to take the time needed to present your case, but you’re going to do so in an efficient manner and respect their time.

Think Hard About What Your Case is Truly Worth

At the end of trial, you are going to have to ask the jury to award a monetary value.  If you don’t believe your case is worth a particular value, the jury won’t either.  At the end of the case make sure your ask is fair and reasonable.  As a plaintiff’s lawyer, don’t let your ego get in the way.  We all see and hear of the really large verdicts, but most cases are not worth millions of dollars.  Some cases are worth $10,000.00 and others are worth $10,000,000.00.  If you have a $100,000 case and you ask for $1,000,000, you’re probably going to get awarded nothing or very little.  Make sure the ask is appropriate for the facts of your case.

For more information on Tips for Winning at Trial, be sure to check out our video on this topic and many more on our YouTube channel.

What You Should Know BEFORE a Car Wreck

Aftermath of a car crash showing a silver car with the front end smashed in.

Let’s start by saying we hope you never need to hire an attorney.  We hope you never end up in a car wreck, but the unfortunate reality is car accidents are a fact of life.  Whether you are at fault or not, car accidents are on the rise.  According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, over 5,200,000 million collisions happened over the course of year (2020).  After working with a lot of first time personal injury clients who maybe waited too long to call an attorney or made a misstep before contacting us, we often hear the comment, ‘I wish I knew this before getting in a car wreck…’ Here is our advice to those who have yet to be in an accident, based on what our clients wished they knew.

Don’t Trust the At Fault Insurance Company

The number one thing our clients wish they knew before getting into a wreck was to not trust the at-fault insurance company.  The at-fault insurance company is the company that represents the at-fault driver.  The at-fault insurance company’s interest is not aligned with yours.  Do not trust them when they say things like, ‘hey, we’ll take care of you,’ or ‘send us your bills and we will pay them.’  After sending them your medical bills, they will likely come back and argue the bills are too high. Insurance companies will say they only need to pay what is “reasonable and necessary,” so they can always argue the treatment you received or the amount you paid was not reasonable or necessary.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Seek Treatment When You’re Hurt

If and when you are involved in an auto accident, do not wait too long to seek medical treatment. Insurance companies will argue that gaps in seeking and receiving treatment make it look like you were not really injured or that your injuries were so minor that you didn’t need treatment.  The reality is, you might feel fine at first but after a couple of days, symptoms of your injuries start to occur.  We have also seen clients waiting to seek medical treatment in hopes that their injuries will get better on their own with time.  If you wait too long before seeking treatment or don’t follow your treatment plan according to your medical providers’ instructions, this can hurt your personal injury case.

Make Sure Your Car is Worth More Than What You Owe — Gap Coverage Insurance

Sometimes the market is what it is and this is not always something you can avoid, but if possible, owing less on your car than what it is worth is ideal.  If you are in an accident and your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company is only required to pay you the “fair market value” of your car.  So for instance, if you can sell your car for $20,000 but you owe $30,000 on it, the insured only has to pay $20,000 for that vehicle.  This is where gap coverage comes in handy.  If you suspect you could ever be in a situation where you owe more than your car is worth, gap coverage on an insurance policy will cover the difference between what your car is worth and what was owed on it before being totaled.

Make Sure You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage is essential in the event you are hit by someone with no insurance or not enough insurance to cover the accident.  You can learn more about uninsured motorist coverage here.

“Full Coverage” is Rarely Full Coverage

We often hear first time clients say things like, ‘Don’t worry, I have full coverage,” only to find out they have minimum limits coverage.  Some insurance agents will tell you they’ll get you “full coverage,” simply meaning you’re fully covered to legally drive in your state.  Fully covered to drive does not mean you are adequately protected if you cause a wreck and cause bad damages or if somebody hits you and causes bad damages.  Don’t just settle for “full coverage”.  Really look into your policy and find out what kind of coverage is written into your policy and whether the amounts of coverage provide sufficient protection for your personal situation.

If You’re Able, Gather Information at the Scene

Pictures, video, witness names and contact information from the scene can be instrumental in your personal injury claim after a car wreck.  It is amazing how several people can be involved in the same event and have different recollections of what happened.  Don’t always rely on the investigating police officer to record names and contact information of witnesses.  The officer might include information from witnesses but not always record their contact information for use later. Any documentation you are able to collect at the scene will be helpful in winning your case later on down the road.

Hire a Good Personal Injury Attorney

If you get into an accident, make sure to hire a good personal injury attorney.  Do your research.  Examine websites, read reviews, ask friends and family that have used an attorney before, and set up a free consultation to meet with potential attorneys to feel them out.  You want to hire the best attorney for you and your case.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and are looking for a personal injury attorney, schedule a free consultation with us today!