Helping The Hurt Attorney Blog

What Happens When You Go to Court for a Car Accident?


If you've never been before, the thought of going to court can be intimidating and nerve-racking. When it comes to personal injury claims, the auto accident where you sustained the injury can sometimes be  just the tip of the iceberg. 

Once your health and safety have been taken care of, you will have a to-do list that will seem like it could make it to the moon and back. Dealing with insurance companies, accident reports, medical expenses, and so on. One of the items on that to-do list could be showing up to court for the accident lawsuit. If you ask some people, they'd probably tell you that they'd rather be in another accident than show up to court and have to stand in front of a judge. It's a lengthy process and is known to be intense. The legal process and all its' formalities, combined with the fear of not getting a fair compensation can all be overwhelming.

Once you've made your first appearance in court, the entire process will be much easier. Until then, though, the stress is justified.

Although most personal injury cases are settled outside of court, there is a chance your case does make it to one. Prepare yourself for the trial process of holding the responsible parties accountable and hopefully getting a fair settlement ahead of time to help make it go more smoothly.

That's why we've put together the ultimate guide to prepare for your first time in court. After digging through the guide below, you'll have the knowledge and confidence to take a bench trial by storm.

Table Of Contents


What To Do Before a Court Hearing

Check the Court Calendar

Most courts today will have an online calendaring system. The calendars will show whether a hearing is still on the calendar, whether a tentative ruling has been issued, and whether a hearing is required. Some courts will even have a telephone option for tentative rulings.

For most legal proceedings, you'll just need to know that the case is still on the calendar.


Visit the Courthouse

You should know for sure that you can make it to the courtroom on time without getting lost.

Visiting the courthouse in person before the day of your hearing is a great way to do that. Plan your visit around the same time of day that your appearance is scheduled for so you'll be able to account for any traffic or road work that might be going on.

If you can, walk inside the courtroom to get a lay of the land and be mindful of how people are dressed and how they act. You'll want to replicate that when you show up for your case.


Dress for Success

Your appearance in the courtroom is always critical, even if it might not seem like it. You should always look your best anytime you're required to appear before a judge.

If you've already visited the courthouse, then you probably noticed that most people were wearing their Sunday best. Don't break the bank on a new wardrobe, but be sure you're dressed like you care. 

Your appearance is the first thing the judge will notice about you, and it will show him how serious you're taking the matter. Do not make any fashion statements either. Try to go with calmer colors.

Get a haircut if you need it, wear a nice watch or tasteful jewelry, and wear appropriate shoes. A professional and conservative look is what you should strive for. However, it's also important to wear clothes you are comfortable in. Finding that balance is key.


Plan Your Day Around the Hearing

Request off of work or let your teachers/professors know you won't make it to class. You don't want anything interfering or interrupting your first court appearance, so you should plan your day accordingly. If you have children, plan for childcare. 

Plan to be there at least 30 minutes early just to be sure that you don't show up late.

Don't schedule anything immediately after your hearing either, because you never know how long it will end up taking. The best thing you can do for yourself is to clear your calendar completely, so you have nothing else to worry about.


Familiarize Yourself With the Local Rules and the Judge

Every court is going to be a little bit different. As soon as you can, get online to check the local court rules to ensure that you follow them properly.

And, just like every court is a little different, every judge is going to be different as well. Every judge will have their own way of doing things.

Ask anyone else experienced with your judge for any insight. Speak to your personal injury lawyer to see if they can give you any extra details ahead of time. 


Get Organized

There's no such thing as being too prepared. You want to be as organized and prepared as you possibly can be for your first court appearance.

Get everything together ahead of time, and don't wait until the day of. If you're working with an experienced car accident lawyer, they will gather all needed documentation beforehand in an evidence file for you.

Things like the police report, any witness statements, expert witness testimony, any proof of medical expenses, any physical evidence of property damage and so on. Ask them if there is anything else needed for your court appearance.


Know Your Case

Take the time to make sure you are completely familiar with every aspect of your case. Treat it like a test you have to study for. Know the facts of the accident, like the back of your hand.

Be familiar with your injuries, medical records, and any and all treatments you received.

When you're in court standing in front of the judge, be honest and confident about the facts of your case.

Don't overemphasize anything, but don't downplay anything either. Present everything as it actually is.


The Day of the Hearing

Be On Time

Even though it might feel like the courts have been making you wait for an eternity, the last thing you want to do is make them wait on you.

Don't just be on time; be early for all appearances. We're not saying that you need to arrive a couple hours, just that it's best to have a time cushion of at least 30 minutes. This will give you time in case there is unforeseen traffic or you have issues parking. This extra time also allows for you to collect your thoughts before the hearing. 

If something does come up and you end up running late, let someone know as soon as you can. 


Remain Calm

Easier said than done, right?

You're probably nervous as your court date approaches, but it's important to remain as calm and level-headed as possible.

Educate yourself on courtroom etiquette, and find out everything you can about your court in particular. You want to be sure there's absolutely nothing that can surprise and fluster you once you've entered the courtroom. When you finally appear in the courtroom, it will be important to look collected.

If you don't get the outcome you wanted, you still need to do all you can to remain calm. Instead of reacting with anger, figure out what you need to do from here.


Check the Calendar List

When you get to the court, there will usually be a hearing list right outside of the courtroom or inside the courtroom. Find your case and note what line number you were assigned.

The judge usually calls the cases by line number, so this will give you an idea of how long you'll have to wait. 


Check in With the Clerk

Now you'll need to let the clerk know that you're present for the hearing so they can sign you in. Ask them if there's anything else they need from you. They'll let you know where you can sit and wait.

Be very polite and respectful in every interaction you have with the court and its staff. If the clerk is busy, don't appear rushed and remain patient.


Speak Deliberately

No matter how nervous you are, speak slow and deliberately. The court reporter will appreciate it, and a calm and deliberate voice will exude confidence and demand attention. You won't be doing yourself any favors if you have a fast, frenetic voice.


Choose Your Words Wisely

Always remember you're in a courtroom and not at home with friends. It's easy to get caught up in the moment, but you need to be mindful of where you are and what you're trying to accomplish.

Phrases like "with all due respect" should be avoided at all costs. They come off very condescending and generally do more harm than good when trying to get your point across.

Use formal language and avoid any slang words.


Know When To Stop Talking

Sometimes saying nothing is more powerful than saying anything at all. Unless you are asked a question, or it is blatantly obvious that you need to say something, don't say anything. Know when the best thing to do is nothing at all.


If You Were at Fault, Take Ownership

Our parents have told us for years, but if you've made any mistakes, own them. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, but honesty is always the best policy. The judge doesn't want to hear excuses.

Own your mistakes, apologize, assure them that it won't happen again, and move on. It's painful to watch someone stumble over their words as they try to string together excuses.

Mistakes are a part of life. If you make a mistake just own it and move on.


How Can a Lawyer Help?

If you've read through this guide, you're ready for your court date. If you still feel uneasy, that's okay, one of the experienced lawyers at Helping The Hurt are here to help.

If you're thinking about filing a personal injury suit and you haven't spoken with legal representation, you should reconsider.

Your life, and the whole settlement process, will be much, much easier if you do.

An experienced attorney should ease some of the mental anguish by handling the technical claims process and help to come up with a number for a fair settlement. 

Our experienced car accident attorneys have years of experience and expert knowledge when it comes to personal injury cases, the accident court process, the negotiation process, and will fight to get you the financial compensation you deserve.

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