Three Keys To A Successful Personal Injury Trial

Keys by Moyan Brenn

Preparing for your first personal injury trial can feel like a daunting task. Feelings of overwhelm and fear are normal. Welcome these feelings and get comfortable hanging out with them. Nelson Mandela said, “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

Preparation can reduce our anxiety level. Let’s look at three key things to focus on pre-trial that will reduce our anxiety level and help make your personal injury trial a success.

1. Have you connected with your client yet? Can you relate to what she has gone through? Have you see the pain yourself? Atticus Finch teaches, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Have you done this with your client yet? If not, start with a trip to the scene of the accident. From the accident scene walk through with your client what they did after the crash, at the scene and when they left the scene. Spend some time in the area of your client’s home where they recovered from their injury. Share a meal together. This time spent with your client will give you the ability to stand up in front of a jury and begin to articulate the loss. Go spend some uninterrupted time with your client, it will make your trial preparation much easier, because you will start to care!

2. Have all of your witnesses been disclosed to the other side and are they all aware of the trial date? You do not want to have one of your witnesses excluded at trial because they were not disclosed. Review your written discovery responses and make sure you have listed each of the witnesses you intend to call at trial in the responses. It is safer to over disclose your potential live trial witnesses. Every case will have a motion in limine to exclude evidence not produced in discovery. My article in Plaintiff Magazine, “What Trial Teaches Us About Discovery” is a good way to learn more about the subject of undisclosed witness exclusion.

You do not want to have to move your trial date because one of your key witnesses is going to be out of town during the trial. Before your trial setting conference call each of your witnesses and ask if they have any upcoming vacations or work trips which may conflict with a potential trial date. It is never helpful to learn a week before trial that one of your your key witnesses is out of town.

3. How are you going to get your special damages into evidence? In a personal injury case your medical experts play an important role in the admissibility of both your client’s lost earnings and the amount of medical care and treatment a jury can consider. Does your medical expert know and understand how the plaintiff’s injury affected their ability to work? Does the testifying doctor understand the physical requirements of plaintiff’s job? The nexus between the level of injury, the expert is willing to testify was caused by the accident, and how that injury affected your client’s ability to carry out their job duties, is the basis for an opinion about how much time off work was reasonable. Next, do you know if your testifying medical expert is willing to give an opinion that the charges for the treatment caused by the accident were reasonable? If so, what is that opinion based on? If you do not know the answers to these questions set up an in person meeting with your client’s treating doctor and ask.

If you are interested in learning more about making your personal injury trials a success, check out my free video, “20 Steps To A Successful Personal Injury 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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