Witnesses are people who come to court to tell what they have seen or heard. These people should either be witnesses who saw what happened or experts on the subject matter of the claim involved.
Before you bring any witnesses to your trial, discuss the case with potential witnesses who have personal knowledge of the case, and decide who can provide evidence in your favor.
Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, you may bring witnesses to your trial to support your story.
A subpoena is a command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony regarding a certain matter. A witness should be subpoenaed a reasonable period of time in advance of the trial date so they can plan to come to court.
If someone you want as a witness refuses to appear in court voluntarily, you may ask the clerk of the court to issue a subpoena to make the individual appear. You must complete the face of the subpoena by filling in the caption of the case as well as the name and address of the witness.
The subpoena may be delivered to the witness by the sheriff. The cost of serving the subpoena varies depending upon the distance between the sheriff's office and the place where the sheriff serves the witness. Also, the witness is entitled to advance payment of a fee plus mileage each way for necessary travel. The winning party may ask the court to order the losing party to reimburse these expenses.
An expert witness is someone who because of their education, training, skill or experience has more knowledge about a particular subject than the average person.
Examples of possible expert witnesses are:
- Automobile mechanics
- Automobile body workers
If you are suing on the basis of defective merchandise or faulty repairs, it may be helpful to have an expert witness testify on your behalf.
The Best Witnesses
Bring witnesses only if you know they will support you. Witnesses who are not friends or relatives may be more effective in proving your case. If your only witnesses are friends or family, you should still bring them but ask them to present themselves in a professional manner, be objective and not be emotional.
Talk to Witnesses Before Hearing
Always talk your witnesses before trial. Your witnesses may not see or interpret the facts in the same way that you do, or they may have forgotten some of the important details.
Decide the order in which you will call your witnesses. During the proceedings, the judge may ask questions of any witness.
Don't Interrupt Witness Testimony
Even if you think information provided by a witness is inaccurate, don't interrupt a witness to clarify the information. Make notes about the information you believe is inaccurate. You will be given an opportunity to address those issues before the end of the proceeding.
Interrupting is proper only when you believe you have an allowable objection, such as claiming that a witness doesn't have direct knowledge of the case or is relying on hearsay, which is testimony that relates to what others have said, not to what the witness personally knows.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I need to have witnesses?
- Can a witness testify by telephone?
- What can I do if one of my witnesses changed their story and ended up telling lies during my hearing?