Pearls

Called to court? Tips for testifying

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Refresh your memory and practice. Gather all required information (eg, medical records, your notes, etc.) and review it before testifying. This will help you to recall the facts more accurately when you are asked a question. Consider practicing your testimony with the attorney who requested you to get feedback on how you present yourself.1 However, do not try to memorize what you are going to say because this could make your testimony sound rehearsed and unconvincing.

Plan ahead, and have a pretrial conference. Because court proceedings are unpredictable, you should clear your schedule to allow enough time to appear in court. Before your court appearance, meet with the attorney who requested you to discuss any new facts or issues as well as learn what the attorney aims to accomplish with your testimony.1

Speak clearly in your own words, and avoid jargon. Courtroom officials are unlikely to understand psychiatric jargon. Therefore, you should explain psychiatric terms in language that laypeople would comprehend. Because the court stenographer will require you to use actual words for the court transcripts, you should answer clearly and verbally or respond with a definitive “yes” or “no” (and not by nodding or shaking your head).

Testimony is also not a time for guessing. If you don’t know the answer, you should say “I don’t know.”

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