There are numerous facets of litigation and trial preparation, and navigating each one effectively requires careful planning and proactive steps. One of the more overlooked parts of preparing for a trial is the direct examination area. It is important for you, as the client, to understand direct examination, especially if you will be called to testify in your car accident case.

What is Direct Examination?

Direct examination is when a lawyer calls a witness to the stand and asks their initial questions. There are numerous rules under civil procedure and rules of evidence that attorneys must consider when preparing their list of questions to ask a defendant or plaintiff. For example, an attorney cannot ask leading questions during direct examination.

Leading questions are questions that suggest the answer that the attorney wants the witness to give or nudge them in the direction of giving a preferred response. Asking, “Isn’t it true that the truck driver caused the accident?” leads the witness. Except in limited circumstances, leading questions or questions that include the answer in them should not be asked in direct examination.

After direct examination by the attorney who called the witness to testify, the other attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. There are different rules for this step, including the requirement that cross-examination questions can only discuss matters that were brought up in direct examination.

Your attorney may prepare for direct examination in a number of ways. Often, preparation will involve determining each area of testimony that must be covered, as well as going over the topics with the witnesses so they are ready for questioning. If you will be testifying in court, this is an important part of preparing for your hearing. Go over any questions or testimony review thoroughly to ensure you are ready to answer your lawyer’s questions on the stand.

Examples of Direct Examination

Your attorney will likely have a list of questions to ask you in court because a good attorney should always make sure their clients are prepared for trial. Many direct examinations begin with background information, so asking questions that begin with who, what, where, when, why, and how will more than likely be included. Many of the beginning questions will ask basic information, such as:

  • What is your full name?
  • Where do you live?
  • What do you do for a living?

Transitional phrases are often used during direct examination, and these phrases often involve facts of the case that the attorney wants the court to know or that are relevant to the question that is about to be asked. Examples include:

  • I direct your attention to Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1; what is this a photo of?
  • Let’s go back to January 18, 2023, at around 4:30 p.m.; where were you then?

Answering Questions During Direct Examination

As part of the process of preparing for your testimony, you should practice or at least discuss how to answer questions during direct examination. Using one of the previous questions as an example, you can see the following hypothetical testimony during direct examination:

Q: Let’s go back to January 18, 2023, at around 4:30 p.m.; where were you then?

A: I was in my car driving down Liberty Street toward the light at Gold Street.

Q: Where were you going?

A: I was going to the Walgreens on Wall Street to pick up antibiotics for my daughter.

Q: What happened next?

A: The light at Gold Street was red, so I stopped and waited for it to turn green.

Q: And then what happened?

A: The light turned green, so I started driving, and someone hit me from the side.

Q: What was that collision like?

A: It was terrifying and severe.

Q: What do you mean by that?

A: It was so loud and sudden. I just remember hearing a loud crashing sound and feeling a sudden bolt of pain all over my body; then I woke up in an ambulance.

Be prepared to explain or elaborate on many of the answers you give, and let your attorney lead the way toward the type of information they think a judge or jury will need to hear. You will likely be asked to describe things or tell the court what happened next during your direct examination.

Litigation is a high-stress and high-stakes environment, and it’s not uncommon for people to blank or freeze on the stand. If that happens, your attorney may feel that asking a leading question is unavoidable to help jog your memory or help guide you in the right direction. While an objection may be raised by the other attorney, this strategy can be beneficial. Your lawyer will know when and if this strategy is the correct choice.

Preparing for Direct Examination with Your Attorney

An effective legal strategy does not ignore the importance of preparing for direct examination. Seitelman Law Offices, P.C. prioritizes each of our client’s needs, and that includes preparing them for each hearing in their legal matter. Contact us for a free consultation.