Witnesses are people who come to court to tell what they have seen or heard. Your witnesses should be people 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're 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. The testimony may be before the court or before a court reporter and, if requested, the person may have to provide documents.
If you believe someone can provide essential information but the person is unwilling to appear in court, ask the clerk to issue a witness subpoena compelling the person to appear. If you must subpoena witnesses or documents, contact the court at least two weeks prior to your court date to obtain the subpoena forms.
Some employers may require that an employee be subpoenaed in order to be excused from work. You'll need to give the clerk the person's full name and address. The clerk will inform you about the required fees.
If you don't subpoena the witness and the witness doesn't appear at the trial, the judge will require you to have the trial without that witness. The judge won't let you come back later with more witnesses or more papers after the trial.
If you receive a subpoena, you may contact the person who had you served or his attorney for additional information on the matter. Contact information is located within the subpoena. Don't ignore a subpoena or the court may hold you in contempt, which means that you disobeyed a court order. Consequences for contempt include fines and possibly jail time.
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
The Best Witnesses
Bring witnesses only if you know they will support you. Witnesses who aren't 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 Trial
Always talk to 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 trial.
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 his story and ended up telling lies during my hearing?