When people think of court cases, they think of Perry Mason. They think of big emotional moments that result in substantial victories. In reality, though, it’s often very different.
In December 2020, more than 35,000 cases were filed with the federal courts. Most of them related to personal injury and product liability matters. Many of them were filed by the injured party themselves.
If you go to a civil trial, you will likely be defending yourself. It is entirely up to you to win your case. Many people lose because they lack experience.
But don’t worry. You can learn the basics of how to achieve a successful court case in just a few minutes. Here is a quick guide.
Prepare Your Court Case Well in Advance
As soon as you decide to file a lawsuit, you need to start gathering evidence. If your testimony is important, write it down in a document with a timestamp. This will substantiate your side of the story.
Find witnesses who can corroborate your case. Ask them if they would be willing to appear in court. If they won’t, ask them if they would submit a document with their testimony.
Get papers, especially ones with dates and names. The more detailed your evidence is, the more convincing it will be. Read over everything several times and make sure you can describe things clearly.
To win your case, you must prove the elements of it. These are the component parts of your claim. For instance, for a contract, you must prove the contract was valid and that you performed the actions that it specified.
Make sure you can prove each and every element. If you fail to prove just one, you will not win your case.
If you need help, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. You do not need to hire one, but a meeting can give you much-needed advice. For example, the Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group offers free consultations during which lawyers examine your claim.
Learn How to Present Your Case in Court
If you are going to represent yourself, you need to spend some time learning the ropes. You should know what the courtroom’s basic procedures and rules are.
If you have free time, go to another trial in the same courtroom and with the same judge. See how they rule on evidence and talk to both sides. Adopt techniques that would appeal to them.
Then take a look at how the lawyers examine witnesses. Consider what questions you would ask and how you would respond to testimony. Jot down notes on things you think the lawyers are doing right.
You should attend a court case even if you have legal support. Watching proceedings will give you a guide on how to conduct yourself during a cross-examination. It can be difficult to experience one, so you want to brace yourself.
In addition to questions during cross-examinations, you will need to present opening and closing statements. An opening statement outlines facts, providing a roadmap for how the court battle will unfold. The closing statement persuades the jury of the significance of each piece of evidence.
Practice making opening and closing statements at home. Record yourself talking, then watch the tapes. Write down clearer terms you could use and important things you forgot to mention.
Take Advantage of Pre-Trial Procedures
You can win your case without having to take it in front of a jury. If you are a defendant, you can file a motion to dismiss. This can end the trial if the statute of limitations has passed or the plaintiff has failed to state their claim.
If you are a plaintiff, you can file a default judgment. This occurs when the defendant never responds to your lawsuit. The judge will rule in your favor and issue a lien on the defendant’s property.
If the other side destroyed evidence, you could move for discovery sanctions. The judge may rule in your favor automatically if the other side destroyed a lot of evidence. The judge can also keep the other side from presenting their own evidence.
You can hire an attorney for pre-trial procedures, then carry on with your trial yourself. This will give you a foundation to build your case on without too much expense.
Decorum is very important for all court cases. Even when you are upset, you must remain respectful.
Be deferential to the judge. Call them “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Do not raise your voice while speaking to them, and answer their questions clearly and honestly.
Be kind to clerks, bailiffs, and other court officials. Use a last-name basis for them unless they say otherwise.
Try to avoid addressing the other side. When you have to, remain as respectful as possible. Don’t point or glare at them.
People may watch your trial. Do not play to the crowds. If you can avoid looking at them at all, do so.
When addressing the jury, make eye contact with them. Avoid referring to the other side unless you absolutely have to. Keep the attention on yourself, conveying confidence and ease.
If you need to speak to someone at your table, pass them a note or whisper in their ear. Keep your volume and gestures down as much as possible. If you are too disruptive, you may be held in contempt.
Dress in formal attire. Shave your facial hair and cover up any tattoos on your face or neck.
Avoid using your phone during the trial. Use a watch if you need to check the time.
Here Is How You Win Your Case
You can win your case without legal assistance. You just need to put the work in that’s required to win.
Start researching as soon as possible. Find witnesses and obtain documents that back your side of the story. Learn about how to present your evidence and practice delivering statements.
Use pre-trial procedures to your advantage. Be respectful and dignified to everyone in court, including clerks. Touch base with an attorney if you need help.
At the end of the day, all you need is the facts. Follow our coverage for more legal guides.