Afterwards, the opposing lawyer will also ask you questions during their cross-examination. While being asked questions by the “other side” might seem intimidating, with the right preparation and knowledge of how cross-examination works, you can confidently answer any question thrown at you—and, in many situations, even strengthen your evidence!
Below, we’ll cover everything personal injury claimants should know about cross-examination, including what happens during and after cross-examination and some tips for preparing for this essential stage in the litigation process.
What Is Cross-Examination?
If your case proceeds to trial, you’ll almost certainly be called as a “witness” by your lawyer to provide evidence about your case in court. During your examination, your lawyer will ask you questions that elicit responses the court will treat as evidence.
However, the opposing party also has the right to cross-examine you. In a cross-examination, an opposing party will get to ask you questions about the evidence you have provided. The purpose of cross-examination is to allow the opposing party the opportunity to challenge your credibility, test the strength of your evidence, and expose weaknesses or inconsistencies in your evidence.
What Happens During Cross-Examination?
During cross-examination, the opposing party will ask you questions while on the stand. Typically, these questions will relate to evidence that you provided in your initial examination and may refer to other documents to challenge your evidence.
For example, during your examination, you may have reported that you went to the hospital right after the accident. However, opposing counsel might present documentation from the hospital which shows that you only attended the hospital several days after the accident to challenge your credibility and expose inconsistency in your evidence.
Additionally, opposing counsel will typically ask “leading questions” during cross-examination (e.g., questions that will be responded to with a “yes” or “no” answer). For example, rather than asking, “What time did you leave the scene of the accident?” the question would be framed as “You left the scene at 10:30 AM, correct?” This strategy is intended to get straight responses to questions.
How Do I Prepare for Cross-Examination?
When you’re preparing for trial, it can feel like there’s a lot you need to know and prepare for. But, with the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer, you’ll get the information and tools you need to provide your best evidence (and perhaps even have some fun during your trial!). Below, we’ll outline some of the universal considerations that personal injury claimants should know about when preparing for cross-examination and how a skilled personal injury lawyer can help.
Know Your Evidence
During cross-examination, you’ll be asked lots of questions about the accidents, your injuries or losses, and how your life has been impacted by the accident. These questions can feel overwhelming, which is natural—after all, it’s practically impossible to remember everything that’s happened to you over the course of several years!
Your personal injury lawyer will help you prepare by thoroughly reviewing your evidence with you before trial. This process might involve looking at documents (such as medical or employment records) and previous evidence you’ve provided (such as your examination for discovery transcript). By reviewing this information, you’ll be able to refresh your memory and start thinking about the types of questions you might be asked on cross-examination and how to prepare for them.
Try a “Mock” Cross-Examination
Cross-examination can feel intimidating if you haven’t been through one before—so, to get a sense of how the process will go, try out a “mock” cross-examination with your personal injury lawyer. This step will help you understand what cross-examination is like (and may also help you think about how to respond to certain questions or handle different scenarios). Simulating the experience of being in court can help with nervousness before trial and increase your confidence when you’re on cross-examination.
Remember that, beyond the answers you provide on cross-examination, your demeanour can impact the court (and, if they’re involved, the jury) in terms of how they perceive your evidence. For instance, getting angry or argumentative with opposing counsel during cross-examination could influence how the judge or jury perceives your credibility and the strength of your testimony.
Remember—your personal injury lawyer is on your side. Their job during cross-examination is to step in if opposing counsel asks you any inappropriate questions and to protect your rights and interests as a witness. Do your best to maintain composure throughout cross-examination. This includes staying focused, maintaining eye contact, and doing what you can to project a calm and composed demeanour.
If you find yourself becoming frustrated or overwhelmed, take a brief pause to collect your thoughts. And trust that if opposing counsel is asking you questions that they shouldn’t be, your personal injury lawyer will deal with them.
Tell The Truth
While preparation is important, remember that witnesses rarely provide “perfect” evidence on examination. You may have trouble remembering certain details, and opposing counsel may point out inconsistencies in your evidence during cross-examination. These moments are to be expected, and it’s critical to stick to the facts within your knowledge. Do not attempt to lie or obfuscate the truth, as this can impact your credibility as a witness. And, if you don’t remember specific details, it’s okay to say so rather than trying to come up with an inaccurate or uncertain answer.
What Happens After Cross-Examination?
After cross-examination, your personal injury lawyer will have the opportunity to re-examine you. While your lawyer cannot raise any new issues during a re-examination, they can ask you additional questions to help clear up any issues that arose during cross-examination.
Conclusions on Cross-Examination
Preparing for cross-examination often starts long before you’re in the courtroom. Understanding the purpose of cross-examination and taking steps to prepare for one can help personal injury claimants navigate cross-examination with ease and put their best foot forward for the court. Work closely with your personal injury lawyer, try out some mock cross-examinations, follow their guidance, and trust your evidence’s strength. With the right preparation, you’ll be ready to navigate cross-examination – and the rest of your case – with credibility.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have many years of experience going up against various actors to get full and fair settlements for our clients. We will work closely with you to ensure you are well-prepared for every step of the personal injury claims process and advise you of the best course of action. We are committed to helping clients obtain the maximum possible settlement so that they can recover financially and move on with their life.