It is rare that one of our clients has ever been in a courtroom before filing a personal injury lawsuit. To somebody unfamiliar with legal proceedings, a court is intimidating and strange.
During 35 years of personal injury practice, I have helped clients prepare for countless trials and hearings. The following tips will help relieve some of the stress you will feel walking into a courthouse for the first time and achieve better results.
1. Prepare for the hearing
Anticipate questions the judge and attorneys are going to ask you and practice your responses. Make a list and ask your lawyer. Your preparations can calm your nerves and help you better express yourself during the hectic courtroom proceedings.
2. Arrange for special accommodations
You have the right to accommodations for your disabilities. Texas courthouses are wheelchair accessible. Your lawyer can answer any questions you might have about parking or entering the courthouse and arrange for any other accommodations you need.
3. Arrive early
The judge keeps a tight schedule and may refuse to hear matters from late parties. Plan to arrive early. Then, if you get caught in traffic or have trouble finding parking, you will still be at your hearing on time. Arriving early gives you the opportunity to get yourself organized, confer with your attorney and take a deep breath before your hearing begins.
4. Leave the kids at home
The courtroom is a boring place for children, and you need to be focused on your case, not on entertaining them. If your child was also injured in the auto accident, discuss with your attorney whether her or his presence is necessary at the hearing. Otherwise, arrange for trusted childcare well ahead of your court date.
5. Dress to impress
The courtroom is a formal place with a dress code. Despite the Texas summer heat, shorts, flip-flops and tank tops are too casual for the courtroom. Think, how would I want to present myself at a job interview?
6. Turn off your cell phone
Nothing upsets a judge more than the sound of a cell phone ringing, beeping or vibrating during a hearing. Turn off all sounds on your cell phone before you even step foot into the courthouse to avoid disrupting court proceedings.
7. Bring pen and paper
Your active participation in your own case can help your lawyer better serve you. Take notes about key points you want to discuss and questions to ask your attorney after the hearing.
8. Remain calm and polite
During the course of a hearing, the defendant, the insurance representative or opposing counsel may say something you don’t like or that is entirely incorrect. No matter what, remain calm and polite. The Dallas and Fort Worth courts maintain strict rules about who speaks when. Your attorney can object to inadmissible statements and present accurate information at the appropriate time.