10 DO’S & DON’TS OF TESTIFYING IN COURT
If you are receiving workers’ compensation, it is possible that someday your case may end up in front of a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ). If that occurs, you undoubtedly will have to testify. How you present yourself before a WCJ can mean the difference between winning and losing your case. What follows are 10 Do’s & Don’ts on testifying in a workers’ compensation case.
- Answer the question. Although this may seem rather obvious, it is not uncommon to see witnesses failing to answer simple questions. Our advice to our clients is “just answer the question.” Don’t drift off into other subjects that have nothing to do with the question being presented to you.
- Don’t be evasive. Sometimes questions can be uncomfortable. Although all questions should be answered truthfully, answering an uncomfortable question can pose a problem. The point is that Judges can always tell when someone is being It is best to deal with uncomfortable questions head on with a straight forward direct answer.
- Be brief. In most instances, simple “yes” or “no” answers will suffice. Stick to the yes or no answers and you can’t go wrong. If more explanation is required, then feel free to explain but remember to be brief.
- Don’t talk too much. You don’t need a shovel to dig a hole. Often times witnesses bury themselves by talking too much. It is a natural tendency for people to want to talk about themselves and their injury when they get on the stand. However, sticking with our previous advice to just answer the question is still the best practice.
- Be direct. A firm straight answer is still the best way to handle any question.
- Don’t look away. When presented with a question, look your questioner straight in the eye and provide the answer. Studies have shown that people who look directly at their interrogator and answer questions firmly are almost universally believed as credible.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question say so. Often times questions require answers that go beyond the knowledge or recollection of a witness. There is nothing wrong with indicating that you do not know the answer to a question. It is better to admit that then try to bluff your way through an answer.
- If you don’t understand a question, then say so. Asking for a question to be repeated is not uncommon. This goes along with not answering a question if you don’t know the answer. Questions can sometimes be complex. It is better to ask for the question to be repeated then to try to assume that you understand what the question is and provide an incorrect answer.
- Don’t be fidgety. Body language is often a dead giveaway to the truthfulness of a witnesses’ testimony. There are many studies that indicate that certain gestures, especially with ones’ hands, can be a dead giveaway as to whether or not the witness is telling the truth. It is very hard not to fidget when testifying. If you are fearful of fidgeting, then it is best to hold something in your hands which will prevent you from using them.
- Wear proper attire. There is nothing more that can add to a person’s credibility then to present a good image before the Judge. This can easily be accomplished by wearing clothes that are proper for courtroom testimony. For men, a suit and tie is For women, business dress. Coming to court in casual (or very casual) attire can be misinterpreted as showing a lack of respect. This can affect how a Judge views ones’ testimony.
It is essential that witnesses who testify in a workers’ compensation case, or any case for that matter, should be extensively prepared. This requires time spent with your attorney getting ready to have you testify. Reviewing records and previous transcripts of testimony from other witnesses, including doctors, etc., can help to prepare you for questions that may be presented to you. Remember, it is not enough to just tell the truth. What is important in testifying is that you must be believed. Anyone can tell the truth. But not everyone can be believed. To be believed you have to be credible. And by following these simple rules your credibility will be enhanced if you are required to testify in court someday.