Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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Preparing for a Jury Trial Minimizes Stress

Posted Friday, October 7, 2016 by Chris Thayer

Preparing for a jury trial involves careful consideration of many different variables. They include:

Preparing for your testimony;Preparing for getting to the courthouse;Considering what you will wear;Considering what to bring to the courthouse.By being prepared, or as prepared as you can be, you minimize your stress. This includes the stress of arriving on time to your trial, having confidence in your responses, and making a good first impression on the jury.

Preparing for Your Testimony

Your Own Preparation

To prepare for your testimony, first you must do some homework. It is unlikely that you will have in your memory easy access to every fact, every doctor’s appointment, every ache and pain. Consequently, it is important to review the documents provided to your lawyer. This will include your diary of injury, doctor’s visits, receipts, the original police reports, any witness statements, other documents you produced during discovery, and your answers to your interrogatories (list of written questions from the other party that you responded to). You should also review your deposition transcript.

Preparation with Your Attorney

You and your lawyer will meet before trial to discuss your testimony. Your lawyer may assist you by performing a mock direct and cross examination. Understand, the rules of court dictate the types of questions and how your lawyer, and the lawyer for the other party, can ask questions. When your lawyer is asking you questions your lawyer is conducting a direct examination. Those questions, generally, are structured as open ended questions, designed to allow you, the testifier, to provide the narrative. Contrast, on cross examination, the lawyer asks closed ended questions, with the lawyer providing the narrative. This means that the questions are usually minimized to yes or no answers.

A good direct and cross will look something like this:

Direct Examination:

Your lawyer: Tell us what you did on the day in question.

You: I was with my friend Jill, and we went up this hill.

Your lawyer: Why did you go up the hill?

You: To fetch a pail of water.

Your lawyer: Then what happened?

You: I fell down. And broke my crown. And then my friend Jill came tumbling after.

Cross Examination

The other lawyer: You were with your friend Jill, is that right?

You: Yes.

The other lawyer: You two went up the hill, correct?

You: Yes.

The other lawyer: And you fell down, correct?

You: yes.

The other lawyer: That’s when you broke your crown, correct?

You: yes.

The other lawyer: And then your friend, Jill, fell down after you, correct?

You: yes.

It is important to understand the rules of questioning, as your lawyer will expect you to provide a narrative of your accident and subsequent injuries without suggesting answers to you.

You and your lawyer will go over your direct examination so you are familiar with the questions that will be asked and you are prepared to provide your answers. This becomes extremely important if you have weaknesses in your case that should be first addressed during direct examination so that such weakness is brought out in a favorable light. Likewise, your attorney will do a mock cross-examination so that you are prepared to respond to questions that may feel hostile.

Getting to the Courthouse

Believe it or not, this is a critical step. Do not underestimate the importance of arriving at the courthouse not just on time, but early. Once you get to the courthouse, you will have to find parking. You will have to go through courthouse security. You may rely on the fact that you will not be the only one attending court that day. Expect that there will be a line for security and plan accordingly. Next, you may have to find the central calendar to determine what courtroom you have been assigned.

Few things make for a worse start to a jury trial day, then arriving late, out of breath, and out of sorts. Do yourself a favor. Determine how you are going to get to the courthouse on the day of your trial, and do a practice run ahead of time. If you are going to drive to the courthouse, make the drive at the same time of day to get a feel for the traffic at that time. Your courthouse may or may not have its own parking lot. Even if your courthouse has a parking lot, take a few minutes to locate alternate parking. Presume the lot may overflow. If you are taking public transportation, you will want to similarly do a practice run, at the same time of day, on a work day, to determine how long the trip will take, and how far of a walk it will be from bus stop to courthouse.

Consider Your Attire

You want to make your best impression on the jury, starting with your appearance. Your attorney may advise you to wear business attire, usually a suit and dress shoes, not sandals or flip flops. You may consider wearing, dress pants and a button down shirt, or, for females, you may wear a dress or skirt that goes to your knees or lower. Do not wear raunchy or offensive clothing, flashy jewelry, jeans, or t-shifts with slogans. You should wear modest clothing and shoes.

Consider also covering your tattoos. Yes, they are meaningful to you. Yes, you can be proud of them. But you don’t want the jury trying to read your tattoos, or figure out the significance of that frog tattoo, when they should be listening to the testimony. Remove your piercings, with the exception of earrings. Select neutral tones, such as black, navy blue, gray, and beige.

The focus of the trial should be on the facts, not on distractions. Refrain from wearing anything flashy or expensive. Some juries may feel that if you are able to wear designer clothing and shoes and wear a Rolex, then perhaps you don’t need the money. Unfortunately, first impressions make a big impact and the jury’s first impression of you will be your appearance.

What to Bring with You to the Courthouse

The part about trials that is never shown on television is the incredible amount of down time that occurs during trials. You don’t see it on television, because it is boring. But it is also a sad fact of trials. There may be meetings between the judge and the lawyers, as they hash out legal issues. The court may have to take time to hear another matter before your case. The jurors will take breaks. There may be more than enough time for lunch.

Bring something to occupy your down time. It can be a book, a magazine, a newspaper. Don’t assume you will be allowed to bring your smartphone into the courtroom.

Just as the court may order an extended lunch break, the reverse may also be true. It’s possible there won’t be enough time for lunch out of the courthouse. Bring some money for the vending machines. Some courts will allow you to bring food into the courthouse, but not beverages. Check with your lawyer about the local rules.

Bring a notebook. Your lawyer will not appreciate you whispering commentary in their ear during testimony. It’s almost impossible to listen to testimony and whispered client comments at the same time. With your notebook, you can calmly write any comments or concerns you have, and gently pass them to your attorney, who will read your comments as time allows.

Pack your patience. Remember, trials are theater. Jurors are watching you at all times. There is no need to react visibly, even if there is testimony you disagree with. The point of discovery is to learn what information the other side is planning to present. Rarely do trials include “surprise testimony.” Your lawyer is aware of the facts and is prepared to address them.