In some car wreck cases, you will have a trial, where you will need to prove your case to the fact finder, which is usually a jury but it can also be a bench trial before a judge, depending on the circumstances. As The Babcock Law Firm, P.C. explains, here is some insight on preparing for cross examination during your trial.
At trial, you will likely be called as a witness and you may be on the stand for anywhere from about 20 minutes to over an hour or more. That will depend on the type of case, and whether you have other witnesses that can tell part of the story or not, among a host of other factors. Your lawyer will help prepare you to testify and go over the likely questions you may be asked, both by your own lawyer and the opposing attorney working for the insurance company who represents the driver your side is claiming is at fault for the wreck.
One focus of questioning for the opposing counsel during your cross examination may be certain medical records related to your treatment following your injury. Another area of focus may be your past medical records.
For example, you may have had a car wreck that caused you to get neck surgery in 2021, and the defense lawyer may want to ask you, did you tell Dr. Jones at the urgent care that you had neck pain, and ask for treatment for it in 2018? The defense lawyer will want to do this to try to show the jury that your neck problems pre-existed the wreck, and the wreck is not the reason for your need for surgery. Now, that old medical record may or may not be accurate. Or, the record may be from so long ago that you cannot remember what you said. In a lot of cases, the doctor who made the note will not be testifying, or if he is testifying, he may not remember if he got that statement from you, someone there with you, or if it was second hand information paraphrased or relayed by an EMT or a nurse.
So, the defense lawyer may properly ask you that question, “did you complain of neck pain to Dr. Jones in 2018?” How you will answer is something you will want to go over carefully with your attorney, as you may have a similar issue in your trial. Of course, you will need to answer honestly, so a response such as “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know” would work. If the answer is yes, then the defense lawyer has laid a foundation to admit that particular medical record (showing you complained of back pain in 2018) as an exhibit in your trial, assuming the document has been authenticated, and is otherwise properly redacted.
If the answer is “no,” or “I don’t know,” your lawyer may need to get involved before, or as the defense lawyer starts to question you further about the document. This can get tricky, as there may be a problem with not having laid a proper foundation for the admissibility of that document into evidence at trial in these circumstances. So, your lawyer may object to the court and ask the Judge to instruct the other side to show you the medical record so that you can read it to yourself silently, and then ask you, does reading that document refresh your recollection? Again, if that happens, you will need to answer honestly. But if it doesn’t refresh your recollection, and you answer “no,” then there is no proper foundation laid and the document should not be admitted in your trial.
You will have to work with your lawyer to prepare for these kinds of situations when you are testifying – for example, your lawyer may explain to you not to read the document out loud if the opposing lawyer hands you the medical record, and asks you to take a look at it or read it. This can be stressful or difficult to remember under pressure, so you may need to take some time in going over this kind of issue, and you may need to practice it a bit, or several times, before trial with your attorney. To learn more about this process, discuss your situation with a qualified car wreck and car wreck and vehicle collisions attorney.
Each state’s laws vary, but as the lawyers these general principles regarding foundation, hearsay, authentication of evidence are broadly similar, no matter what U.S. courtroom your case is in. Likewise, the trial judge has great discretion regarding the admissibility of evidence, and your lawyer will need to plan for their backup plan when evidentiary rulings go against them, and will need to help you get ready for what may happen in such circumstances, and how to handle it.