Personal Injury Attorney 101: Serving a Trial Subpoena


If you’re working on a personal injury case that’s set to go to trial, you are dependent on a number of witnesses and experts that must show up to trial.  If your witnesses do not show up your case may fail for lack of adequate proof.  Serving trial subpoenas is an important part of that process.  Here are some tips to help you through the process:

  • Make a Witness List.  A  well thought out witness list is the first step.  Ensure that you have listed all of the witnesses that you could possibly want to appear at the trial, and walk through the relevant and expected testimony of each witness.  Identify the people that absolutely must appear, and make sure that you take steps to serve a valid trial subpoena on the people you know must appear.
  • A Valid Subpoena Protects Your Client’s Case.  You may encounter witnesses or experts that orally agree to show up, but then conflicts arise and they do not show up.  If you do not have a proof of service of a trial subpoena to show the trial Judge, the judge is powerless to issue an order to show cause for their failure to appear, i.e. send the sheriff out to arrest them and bring them to court.
  • Start with Informal Notice To the Witness.  Once you have identified the witnesses you must have at trial consider starting the notice process with an informal call to the witness.  Let them know where and when the trial is supposed to start, and your estimate of when they will be needed.  Let them know that a formal trial subpoena will be served, but not to worry, they may call you at anytime on your cell phone if they have any questions or concerns about their appearance.
  • Be Mindful of Your Witnesses.  While some jurisdictions allow a trial subpoena to be served at the last minute, everyone involved is better served the more notice a witness if given of their pending court appearance.  The sooner you can notify a witnesses of the date, time and place of their appearance, the better off you will be.  Personal injury trials are delayed for a number of reasons, including witnesses who do not show up.  Clear communication with your necessary witnesses and proper service of your trial subpoenas will help eliminate delays caused by a witnesses failure to appear.

Ready to learn more about preparing for a trial case as a personal injury attorney? Subscribe to Albert G. Stoll, Jr., and get the free ebook “The Top 20 Steps To A Successful Personal Injury Trial: 120 Days Before Trial.”


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In his 20 years of law practice, Al has handled more than 40 jury trials. This experience, combined with a commitment to ethics and integrity, has earned Al an excellent reputation throughout the San Francisco Bay Area legal community. He is the recipient of Martindale-Hubbell‘s “AV” peer rating, which signifies preeminent legal ability and ethical standards, and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since 2006. In 2009, Al was awarded the prestigious 2009 Civil Justice Award by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, given to attorneys who show integrity, grit, tenacity, ethics, and great advocacy skills, and who contribute to the betterment of consumers and/or injured victims and their families.

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