Unless you are an attorney, "going to court" is not something that you do very often. In fact, most people only see the inside of a courtroom once or twice in their whole life. It's normal to be nervous. This court guide and your legal team will prepare you for your day in court. From start to finish, they will guide you throughout the legal process.
Television Is Not Reality
Unless you are watching the news, what you see on television shows doesn't happen in the real world of trial law. Cases don't get solved in an hour. The brainy CSI won't show up with a discovery that shatters the defendant's pleas of innocence. Your attorney won't browbeat the defendant into a tearful confession of guilt.
The real world practice of law is very different. It is much calmer. It is more relaxed. It is more professional than what you see on television programs. It is also much longer and more tedious. It is not unheard of for personal injury lawsuits in Kansas to take a year or longer to conclude. Depositions, discovery, negotiations, and motions take time to prepare, file, and for the courts to consider before your personal injury lawsuit can proceed to trial.
Be Prepared to Get Personal
Your personal information will be thoroughly examined by the defendant's legal team. This examination may include your finances, employment history, medical records, criminal records, etc. These can all come up in discovery and during trial. This will feel very intrusive and it is crucial to be as truthful and open as possible.
However, it is important to remember that not everything the defendant's attorneys will ask is a question you have to answer. Your attorney can help prepare you for the line of questioning you can expect. Your attorney will also help protect you when opposing counsel asks you questions that are not reasonable or are irrelevant to your lawsuit. For instance, one thing you should never do is to post details or information about your case on social media that can be used against you.
Understand How Your Attorney Prepares for Trial
Before the trial, your attorney will go over all depositions, exhibits, pleadings, and evidence. Your attorney will also review all relevant statutes and precedents. The attorney will also prepare for any attempts by opposing counsel to dismiss the case, counter your evidence/eyewitnesses, or otherwise defeat your claim.
Your attorney will also help prepare you and your witnesses. Together, you will go over your statements and prepare for cross-examination by opposing counsel. Your attorney will also prepare their opening arguments and be available to answer your questions about the trial and what you can expect during the process.
Prepare for Pre-Trial Settlement
Approximately 95% of personal injury cases settle in a pre-trial settlement. When the evidence clearly establishes liability, you can expect the defendant's counsel to put an offer on the table. They may also extend an offer to protect the defendant's reputation or avoid the time and expense of a trial. When opposing counsel makes a pre-trial settlement offer, you will want to discuss this with your attorney. Most importantly, you will want to make sure that any offer fully covers any anticipated long-term care expenses or loss of income.
Court Guide Checklist
If there's no pre-trial settlement, this court guide will help you prepare for trial:
- Go over your testimony and the facts of the case with your attorney. Make sure you know what questions your attorney will ask, what questions opposing counsel may ask, and what your eyewitnesses will say. You should review this a day or two before your court date.
- Discuss the proceedings. You will want to discuss what to expect with your attorney. Ask questions about the order of events, the terminology to expect, how long the trial will last, etc. The more you know about these details, the more comfortable you will be during the trial.
- Arrange to travel to court with your attorney. This will help ensure you are not late. It will also help you stay calm before the proceedings.
- Confirm the time. Court dates and times can change with little notice. You should confirm the time/date/courtroom with your attorney the day before the trial.
- Clear your calendar. Delays can and do happen. Trials can last longer than anticipated and you should make sure that you have sufficient time in your calendar.
- Make arrangements for children. Unless your child is scheduled as a witness, you should not bring them to court. Make primary and backup arrangements for childcare in advance so that you don't have to worry about it on your court date.
- Prepare your outfit. Dressing professionally shows your respect for the court and the legal process. Make sure you have a conservative outfit cleaned and ironed for your court date. It is also a good idea to have a backup outfit ready to go.
- Get a haircut, shave, and trim your nails. Think of going to court as if you are going for a job interview.
- Get plenty of rest. This will help you relax and stay alert when you are in the courtroom. Turn off your mobile phone. Judges do not like it when ringtones interrupt the proceedings.
- Bring a paper and pen/pencil. This allows you to take notes and silently ask your attorney questions during the trial.
- Bring a book, tablet, or laptop. Delays create downtime. If there is a delay you will want to keep busy. Books, tablets, and laptops allow you to work, connect with family/friends, or read the news while you wait.
- Prepare for the verdict. Win or lose, you must remain professional when the court delivers their decision. Controlling your emotions throughout the process is critical.
- Discuss next steps. Once the trial is over, you will want to discuss the next steps with your attorney. This may require preparing for an appeal, addressing a dismissal, collecting compensation, etc. Understanding the next steps can make it easier to move forward.