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I’ll tell you it’s one of those things, I heard this a long, long time ago that cases can’t be won in opening statements but they certainly can be lost. Opening statements in my opinion are one of the most important parts of a trial because it really sets the stage for the what the evidence is going to show and what the story of your case is. And that’s kind of the most important thing to me is setting up the story, explaining to the jury why your client was injured and why they’re entitled to compensation for what they’ve been through. And it does go back to telling the story of your client.
Part of that is really getting to know your client beforehand. Sitting down and talking to them not just about the case but getting to know who they are as a person, what they’ve been through, what the case has caused them to experience, and how it’s affected not just them but their family. Oftentimes when you have significant injuries it affects everybody in your life not just you and it’s that story that becomes so important to explain to the jury so that on the back end when the jury is faced with having to make an award they understand all aspects of the case not just the injuries that have affected you. And all of that starts with the story in opening statements explaining those things to them and getting them to understand who your client is, what your client is about, and how the case is affected them.
I tell you cross-examination is probably the most fun part of the trial. It is the part where you get to, I hesitate to say invoke your will but to get the jury to understand why the person you’re cross examining is not necessarily telling the full story. I don’t want to say they’re telling mistruths ’cause that’s not always accurate a lot of times they’re telling you their side to the story and all stories have two sides. But cross-examination is an opportunity to bring out your case in the adverse party’s testimony. And it really can be the most fun part.
The basis of cross-examination though really starts in preparation. Taking the person’s deposition, learning the facts of what they’re going to testify about. If it’s an expert it’s real important to do your job beforehand and make sure that you understand the things that the expert is going to testify about so that you can ask them. They’re going to be an expert, they’re going to know their case, they’re going to know the support for their arguments your job is to know as much as they do so that you can ask the pertinent questions and get them on board with some of your philosophies and some of your case themes.
And so, cross examination, again, there’s an old saying in trial work don’t ever ask a question you don’t know the answer to already and the answers are all in the depositions that you take beforehand or the preparation that it takes to get ready for that cross examination beforehand. And so you learn everything there is to know so that when you’re asking those questions on cross you already know the answers before you even ask the question.
There’s a lawyer here in Atlanta who calls that the hootin’ and hollerin’ part of the trial and I’ve always liked that kind of explanation because that’s kind of what it is. And it’s kind of similar to opening from the standpoint of you can’t really win a trial in closing because if you haven’t won it by the time you get to that part then you’ve probably not done something correct along the way. But it is a chance to talk to the jury about what the case was about, how you see it, and kind of wrap all the pieces up together so that the jury understands your story and what you’ve been trying to tell them and what your client has been through.
Oftentimes, the hardest part of or certainly it used to be for me a long time ago the hardest part was the money ask. How do you ask for money? How do you go to a jury, look 12 people in the face, and ask them to award your client millions of dollars? And it’s gotten easier over the years for me because I’ve started to understand not that I’m asking for a million dollars or more but that that’s what my client deserves in many of these cases. My clients in many of these cases have been through just horrific losses whether it’s the loss of a loved one in a wrongful death case, whether it’s having to persevere through a surgery or whatever it may be.
Being in a wreck is no fun, tripping and falling because somebody else didn’t do something correctly or didn’t protect their property is no fun and the process in, and of itself is just not a fun process. It’s not something that anybody should be forced to go through. And when you start understanding those things that I was talking about getting to know your client and getting to know their story once you understand that then asking for the money becomes a lot easier because you understand they really in many cases deserving of large dollar figures because of simply what they’ve been through.
So the closing is your chance to talk to the jury about why your client is deserving of significant compensation for what they’ve been through. And it’s a really important part because there’s only two times in a trial where you do get to talk directly to the jury and one of them is opening statement and the last is closing argument. And it is the last thing that the jury will hear before they go back into the jury room to deliberate on the final verdict. And so it is a very important part they call it summation kind of closing everything together or looping everything together so that the jury understands what the client has been through and why they’re deserving of compensation.
Marietta, GA personal injury attorney Michael R. Braun goes over important aspects of proving successful in a trial. He explains that I believe that opening statements are a crucial part of a trial, as they set the stage for the evidence and tell the story of the case. It is essential to establish a connection with the jury by explaining why your client was injured and why they deserve compensation. Understanding your client on a personal level, beyond just the case, is vital. By delving into their experiences, the impact on their life and their family, you can effectively convey the full scope of the case to the jury. Opening statements lay the foundation for presenting your client’s story.
Cross-examination is often the most enjoyable part of a trial. It provides an opportunity to challenge the adverse party’s testimony and present your case. Adequate preparation is key to effective cross-examination. Studying deposition transcripts and understanding the expert’s arguments enable you to ask pertinent questions and align their testimony with your case themes. The goal is to bring out the necessary information and support your position.
Closing arguments, often referred to as the “hootin’ and hollerin’ part of the trial,” are not where a case is won but where it can be summarized and tied together. It allows you to address the jury one last time, presenting your perspective, and helping them understand the story and experiences your client has gone through. While it’s important to be concise and impactful, the true success lies in building a strong case from the beginning.
Asking for the appropriate amount of compensation was once a challenge for me. However, over time, I have come to understand that many of my clients truly deserve significant awards due to the profound losses they have suffered. Whether it’s the tragic loss of a loved one or enduring the physical and emotional pain caused by an accident, the process is difficult and should not be taken lightly. By grasping the depth of their experiences and getting to know their stories, asking for the appropriate compensation becomes more natural, driven by a genuine understanding of what they have endured.
Closing arguments provide the opportunity to advocate for your client’s entitlement to substantial compensation. It is a pivotal moment because it is one of the few times you can directly address the jury. This final address encompasses everything that has been presented in the trial and influences the jury’s perception before they deliberate and reach a verdict. It is a critical part of the trial, allowing you to articulate why your client deserves fair and substantial compensation based on the challenges they have faced.
In summary, opening statements, cross-examination, and closing arguments are vital components of a trial. Opening statements set the tone and tell the story, cross-examination challenges the opposing party’s testimony, and closing arguments wrap up the case, emphasizing the client’s experiences and deserving compensation. Understanding your client’s journey and effectively conveying their story to the jury plays a pivotal role throughout the trial process.