Nervous About Your Upcoming Personal Injury Trial? Learn Why It's Actually Time To Relax

Posted on: 2 November 2016

Nationwide, only about 4% of personal injury cases end up going to trial. If your claim falls into that small percentage, however, you're probably a little nervous and wondering what will happen at trial. It's natural to be nervous, but you don't need to be—contrary to popular belief (and most television shows), absolutely nothing is likely to be heard at trial that hasn't been heard already. Learn more about why this is true and what trials are really all about.

Pre-trial Discovery Will Have Hopefully Eliminated All The Surprises

Long before a case ever approaches trial, each side traded basic information with the other attorney about the case on written forms called interrogatories. They helped each side clarify where to start gathering information. Subpoenas helped them gather additional information about the accident and your medical history. Oral depositions, taken under oath, helped each attorney get a feel for the main people involved on the other side, including the plaintiff, the defense, and crucial witnesses.

While there are always potential surprises when you're dealing with human beings, in an ideal trial everyone already knows all of the information that's available and knows what both sides are going to say at trial. 

The Trial Is About The Interpretation Of Available Evidence And Credibility

The trial is where each side takes all the available evidence and tries to present it in a light that's most favorable to its own interpretation of the evidence. It's also about credibility—since juries are presented with two possible versions of events, they're often left to decide simply who they believe put the most credible version forward and who seemed more believable on the stand: you or the person on the other side of your case. It doesn't matter whether you are the injured plaintiff or the targeted defense, your credibility and the credibility of your witnesses is what's actually on trial.

Witness credibility can often be a problem. Expert witnesses have to be above reproach so that they don't come off looking like they are simply "hired guns" who will testify for whatever side is paying them. Your credibility is also very important. You want to focus on remaining clear, honest, likable, and calm. Your attorney will focus on bringing out the details that he or she needs the jury to hear. If you're relatively relaxed, that will help convey confidence to the jury—while anxiety could be misread as deception.

It might help you to know that, while plaintiffs win at trial slightly more than defendants, the margin is slight: only 56% of plaintiffs win. That means that you stand a fair chance of victory, no matter what side you're on. For more information, talk to a lawyer.