Testifying In Court

Testifying in court can be very nerve-racking, but it doesn’t have to be.

Of course you will have to swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  That is the easy part.  When your attorney asks you questions, they will usually ask you who, what, when and why-type questions.  Tell the story.  Full sentences or paragraphs.  Explain what happened.  Other attorneys in the room will get a chance to ask you questions as well.  They will usually ask you yes-or-no questions.  You should answer “yes” or “no.”  If you answer “yes, but…” or “no, but…” it can make you sound disingenuous or like you are trying to hide something, or don’t know what you are talking ab out.  Keep in mind your attorney will have a chance to ask you questions again, and clean things up.  They can ask you to clarify, or explain why you answered the way you did to a previous question.  Or your attorney may not want to remind the Court that you answered a certain way, and may not bring it up again.

Also, before you answer any question take a deep breath.  This does two things: 1 – it gives your brain time to think about the answer.  Whether you know it or not your brain is always processing.  2 – (and probably more importantly) it gives your attorney a chance to object if someone asks an improper question.  If another attorney asks you an improper question and you answer before your attorney can object, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to object.  That bell can’t be un-rung.

When testifying remain calm, answer the questions that are asked and take your time to think about the answer.  If you don’t know something, it is always OK to say, “I don’t know.”  It is better to say, “I don’t know,” than to guess at the answer.  If you feel like you must guess, make sure you let everyone know that it is a guess, or an estimation.

I have testified many times in Court.  It is no fun, but it doesn’t have to be difficult at all.  You are testifying because someone believes you have information the Court needs.  Remain calm.  Take your time answering questions.  Answer only the question that is asked, and tell the truth.  You’ll do fine.