Direct examination during a trial refers to the initial questioning of a witness by the lawyer who called the person to testify. Many people focus on the cross-examination during a trial because they want to raise doubts about the person’s testimony. However, the direct examination is just as important to ensure that the lawyer establishes the crucial facts of the case.
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Tailoring the Direct Examination to the Witness
Trial lawyers must customize the direct examination for the type of witness on the stand.
Direct Examination of a Medical Expert
For example, suppose the attorney is questioning a medical expert in a medical malpractice case. First, the attorney will spend sufficient time asking questions about the doctor’s qualifications as an expert witness. Then, the questioning might be directed toward what they would expect in cases similar to the plaintiff’s or how injuries or illnesses like the plaintiff sustained impact a typical person’s life.
When the attorney questions the treating physician, the questions regarding qualifications are not usually as extensive unless the attorney wants to offer the doctor’s testimony as an expert witness. Instead, the questions focus more on the facts of the specific case. The lawyer uses the testimony to provide jurors with a comprehensive understanding of the severity and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Direct Examination of the Plaintiff
Likewise, the direct examination of the plaintiff differs from the questions a lawyer asks the plaintiff’s spouse. The lawyer asks the plaintiff questions about their background and personal life before and after the accident. The purpose is to paint a clear picture for the jury of how the injury has impacted the plaintiff.
The lawyer also asks the plaintiff specific questions about the accident or personal injury. The attorney needs to present specific facts about how the injury occurred to prove causation and fault to establish liability for damages.
Direct Examination of the Plaintiff’s Spouse
When questioning a plaintiff’s spouse, the lawyer focuses mainly on how the plaintiff was before the accident compared to how they were after the accident. The point is to help the jurors understand the severity of the impact on the plaintiff’s entire life. If the spouse claims loss of consortium, the lawyer also needs to establish how the plaintiff’s injuries impacted their marital relationship.
General Tips for Conducting a Direct Examination
Experienced trial attorneys have developed skills that allow them to present a compelling narrative for jury members. They are also aggressive when cross-examining witnesses to uncover testimony damaging to the defense.
Some general tips lawyers follow when performing direct examinations include:
- Prepare a witness for questions that will be asked during direct examination and cross-examination.
- Do not ask leading questions that could result in objections by the other lawyers. Leading questions contain the answer the lawyer wants to hear within the question.
- Ask questions that begin with “who, what, where, when, and why.”
- Organize questions that focus on the background and lead into the facts of the case.
- Ask witnesses to explain what happened next or describe the situation in more detail.
Experienced trial lawyers understand that jurors need to focus on the witness. The lawyer is merely a background player directing the testimony by asking questions. The attorney wants the jurors to remember what the witness said and “feel” the testimony to increase the impact of the testimony during jury deliberations.
What Are the Various Roles in a Personal Injury Trial?
Most personal injury cases settle without the need to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, if your case does not settle through negotiations, it helps to understand who will play a role in the personal injury trial.
Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s Lawyers
The plaintiff is the injured party. The plaintiff’s lawyers present their case first.
Negligence is the basis for most personal injury cases. Therefore, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove the following legal elements of a negligence claim:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
The lawyer uses different types of evidence to prove the case, including witness testimony, medical records, expert opinions, physical evidence, and documentary evidence.
Defendant and Defense Lawyers
The defendant is the person who the plaintiff alleges caused their injury. In most accident cases, the insurance company hires the defense lawyers. However, the defendant can hire personal counsel to represent them at the trial.
Witnesses at a personal injury trial may include the plaintiff and defendant, eyewitnesses, and expert witnesses. Expert witnesses might include medical specialists, accident reconstructionists, engineers, trucking industry experts, manufacturing experts, and others.
The judge oversees the trial process and decides matters related to legal questions. For example, the judge would decide whether specific evidence is admissible if a lawyer files a Motion to Suppress. The judge also instructs the jurors on the law and their duties.
The jurors are the “triers of fact.” They decide what evidence they believe to be true. They also decide whether the plaintiff has met the burden of proof.
The burden of proof in a personal injury trial is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” That means that the jurors believe there is more than a 50% chance that the allegations by the plaintiff are true.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were injured in an accident, you deserve fair compensation for your injuries. Call now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth personal injury attorney at (817) 420-7000 or contact us today, our lawyers at Stephens Law Firm will answer all the questions you have.