In my last post about auto accidents in Georgia, I gave you information on how to get started on seeking reimbursement for your damaged car post-wreck. So you've filed your civil suit and want to know what to do now, right?
Well, you prep for your court date. For whatever reason, you have decided not to hire an attorney to represent you, and you may be nervous about representing yourself. Being thoroughly prepared will help to alleviate some of your anxiety, and here are some tips for equipping yourself:
Be organized. Have everything you need at your disposal and readily accessible. Some things you will likely need with you are receipts, bills, witnesses, and photographs. If you think that you might be more than a little nervous, equip yourself with notes on what you'd like to convey to the court. Keep them brief so that you won't get lost in the notes while glancing to them from time to time. All you need is basic points; you'll be able to fill in the details as you go along. Your notes are just to guide you and jog your memory.
Don't waste your time with affidavits. They're useless since they're considered hearsay, and the judge will not allow them. You'll need an actual person to give an actual account of what needs to be entered into the record. This could be a witness who saw the accident with their own two eyes, or it could be the person at the body shop who did/is doing your repairs and can attest to the cost of those.
Be neat, clean, and mannerly. These are all symbolic of your respect for the court. Your appearance is also an extension of being organized.
Be prepared to
present your case. Present to the court what traffic rule or duty of the
road that the other person failed to comply with. You can testify on your
behalf and recount your observations, since the first part of the case is for
testimony. While you're doing this, be
brief and professional. Don't go on a long rant and don't swear.
Introduce any evidence you brought, whether it be photos, witnesses, or bills and receipts. When you introduce these things to the court, you must 'tender' them. This means that each item (bills, receipts, photos) you want the judge to examine must be numbered and you are required by court procedure to say, "I am tendering exhibit number so-and-so" and hand it to the judge. You are also required to show it to the other party before you attempt to show it to the judge.
You can call the other party to the stand. You may ask them questions, but you're not allowed to argue with them. Again: Keep it professional! I can't stress this enough. You can ask questions such as what speed they were traveling at, what they were paying attention to, whether or not they were doing anything in addition to driving such as fiddling with the radio or talking on the phone. Keep questioning to a practical minimum and stick with ones relating to how the crash happened. It might help if you have a list of questions already prepared for this going into court.
Before you rest your case, use this checklist:
- Did I tell the judge all my evidence dealing with why it's the other guy's fault rather than mine?
- Did I submit all the pictures and paperwork showing damages?
- Did I tender my exhibits?
You can give a closing argument. You should use this time to tell the judge the most pertinent, strong facts in your favor and reiterate why the other side is wrong.
I hope I've made you feel better about court procedure post-accident. If you've changed your mind and don't want to represent yourself in your civil case for damages, give us a call and we'll talk about acquiring a skilled Atlanta trial lawyer to help!