Giving Evidence at Personal Injury Claim Hearings
If your personal injury claim doesn’t settle before court, there is a good chance that you will be called to give evidence.
How you come across in court is likely to have a big impact on whether your claim is successful or not, so it is crucial that you prepare properly.
Disclaimer: This guide outlines general topics you should be thinking about if you want to make a personal injury claim. But it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact a specialist personal injury claim solicitor for guidance on your specific circumstances.
How To Give Evidence At Your Personal Injury Court Hearing
If you are called to give evidence at your personal injury claim court hearing, you need to present yourself in the best way possible. Address the judge correctly, maintain your credibility and persuade the court that your version of events is the correct one.
Giving evidence is a stressful experience. There would be something wrong with you if you weren’t feeling the nerves as you walk up to the witness box.
But judges and barristers are used to dealing with anxious people in court. They do it every day of the week. Once you get started, you may find that giving evidence isn’t as bad as you expect it to be.
Who knows, you might even enjoy it!
When giving evidence, there’s only one person you need to worry about.
There’ll be no jury there – the judge is the person that calls the shots.
If it comes down to your word against someone else’s, the judge will just decide who they believe most. So you must do everything you can to ensure that your side of the story is presented in the most credible way possible.
How do you make sure you come across as credible?
Well, imagine that you are the judge for a moment. You are listening to two people talk about their personal injury claims in court:
People say that how you dress and how you speak in court shouldn’t matter. Maybe in a perfect world it wouldn’t. But in real life, judges care that you respect the court process and take it seriously.
If you want to win your case, what’s important to the judge should be important to you too.
So dress well, be respectful and make a good impression.
If you want to give convincing evidence, follow these tips:
Speak as clearly as possible. Everyone needs to hear what you are saying. The barristers, who will be in front of you, will be asking most of the questions. But you should direct your answers to the judge, who will usually be sitting to your side.
Know the facts of your case. Read your notes beforehand, swot up on the details and be ready to be questioned.
Keep your answers short and concise. Don’t go off on long-winded explanations or irrelevant stories.
If you can’t remember something – just say so. Don’t be tempted to fill in blanks or make things up. If the defence barrister thinks you are making things up, they will pull you up on it. If they can show that you exaggerate or tell stories, the judge might wonder what else you are making up. Stick to the facts.
Take your time. You are allowed to think about a question before answering – you don’t have to rush. If you do not understand a question, you can ask for it to be repeated or explained.
During cross examination, it is the defence barrister’s job to challenge your story. You’ll be asked difficult questions. You might even be told that you are lying. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t matter what the defence barrister thinks – the only person who matters is the judge. Stay calm and answer questions politely and truthfully. If you can’t remember something, or the barrister is saying something that is untrue, just say so.
If you get angry, stroppy and rude, you’ll not do yourself any favours.
When the barristers are finished making their cases, the judge will make their decision.
Sometimes the result is announced immediately. Other times the judge will take some time to think about your case.
When they announce the result, the judge will give reasons why they came to the decision they did. You can ask your solicitor to explain exactly what the decision means for you and what happens next.
If you are not happy with the result, you can appeal a personal injury claim decision in some (limited) circumstances. Your solicitor can advise if an appeal is an option in your case.
Hopefully your day in court ends with a decision in your favour. Court is stressful and tiring for everyone, no matter what the outcome.
So now you can go home, put your feet up and relax.
The above article is part of our guide on how to make a personal injury claim in Northern Ireland.
If you are thinking about making a personal injury claim, you should get in touch with a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor who will help you assess the strength of your case.
If you have any questions, you are very welcome to get in touch.
All the best,
The Team @ Lightlaw
Every effort is made to keep this guide up to date. Although it is not to be regarded as legal advice, we strive to make sure the information is helpful, accurate and practical. If you are a Northern Ireland personal injury solicitor and have spotted an inaccuracy, you can submit a suggested change.