The Subtleties of Preparing Healthcare and First Responder Witnesses for Testimony

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

Healthcare professionals and first responders are often hardwired to think, listen, and communicate differently than other jobs or professions. Due to these characteristics, when these types of professionals are involved in litigation, they often require a different preparation approach than that of other witnesses. Paramount for overcoming the unique challenges of healthcare and first responder witness preparation include avoiding last-minute preparation and establishing trust.

Healthcare and first responder witnesses not only need thorough witness training, but they also need to understand their role and their objective during deposition and at trial. With witness performance being the leading determinant of verdict and damage awards, effectively preparing witnesses for their testimony is crucial to ensure positive outcomes. 

The experts at Courtroom Sciences understand the inherent challenges and subtleties of preparing healthcare professionals and first responders for testimony and can help you mitigate risk with adequate witness preparation. Our sophisticated neuro-cognitive witness training program is designed to help rehabilitate and prepare even the most difficult and dubious witnesses, ensuring their testimony performance is well-received.

What are some challenges of first responder and healthcare witness preparation?

Due to their training, many first responders may have more rigid personalities and tend to see situations as either black or white, with no room for a gray area. Due to this, they may also struggle to appear likable to a jury. Healthcare professionals often have an empathetic personality, which may be problematic during a deposition taken by an aggressive plaintiff attorney. Witness training is essential to help these witnesses appear poised, confident, and persuasive. 

Unique Subtleties Facing First Responder And Healthcare Witnesses 

Witness prep with law enforcement employees can often be more challenging than the standard witness. Particularly over the last two or three years, opinions regarding first responders have become increasingly negative in the jury pool. Additionally, first responders can sometimes not appear personable or likable during their testimony. First responders often see situations as black or white with no gray area. 

Similarly, in the healthcare realm, these professionals are often trained in a way that can make it challenging to prepare them to give testimony as a witness. Nurses and other mid-level providers are trained to have the answer ready by the time the question is over. While that tactic might be useful for patient care, it can be detrimental during a deposition. The witness doesn’t know where the attorney is going, and answering quickly can prevent them from fully understanding the question or responding accurately. 

Building Witness Trust With First Responders And Healthcare Professionals 

Too often, defense counsels assume witnesses trust them, and that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, failing to assess witness trust properly can cause significant issues the deeper you get into the litigation process. To address the unique challenges of healthcare professionals and first responders, defense attorneys must meet with these witnesses early in the proceedings and work with them to build rapport and trust so they take direction to come off as presentable as possible.

Building witness trust can take many forms and may look different for each witness. Ideally, you’d like your first meeting to happen in person to assess the witness most effectively. From there, follow-up meetings may occur through online conferencing or telephone calls. Some witnesses may be much more apprehensive and need a longer build-up time to create the level of trust required to appear poised and confident. Look for any commonalities to make a connection and think outside the box when needed. Perhaps you even meet a witness outside the office in a more casual setting to help them feel more at ease during your initial conversation.

Witnesses may be scared or afraid; it can feel very foreign if they’ve never been through the process. While it may be time-consuming, it’s more prudent to take the time leading up to the case to build witness trust than to have a witness say something during a deposition that takes you by surprise simply because you didn’t spend enough time conducting witness prep. 

Preparing Healthcare and First Responder Witnesses for Testimony

Many witnesses, including healthcare professionals and first responders, struggle with responding to a question with as short of an answer as possible, particularly when they feel a further explanation is required. Some witnesses may even be advised that they can win a deposition by attempting to out-argue the plaintiff's attorney. Not only can these behaviors inhibit defense counsel from effectively defending the case, but they also play directly into opposing counsel’s hands, making the witness look evasive, non-responsive, argumentative, or defensive. Witnesses are also liable to offer long-winded explanations, providing too much information in response to the questions that will only help the plaintiff’s attorney. 

This type of aggressive approach is likely to result in adverse outcomes. Instead, it’s more important that these witnesses come off as likable. Because, at the end of the day, whether it’s fair or not, a witness's credibility and believability can often hinge on whether a jury finds them likable. These critical witnesses, essential to your case and strategy, need to understand their role and that their objective during their testimony is simply to confidently and persuasively answer questions based on their knowledge.

As a component of witness preparation, defense attorneys might practice asking witnesses questions similar to what they will face during deposition, perhaps even imitating opposing counsel. To take this a step further, attorneys might consider pulling transcripts from those attorneys and using them to guide their preparation. They can show those transcripts to their witnesses, point out the order in which the plaintiff's attorney typically asks questions, and then ask their witnesses how they would answer specific frequently asked questions. Doing it this way can make it more specific to your case. 

Spending this time with a witness may feel extreme for some attorneys, especially when most cases will eventually settle. However, this time investment will adequately prepare witnesses to help them deliver compelling testimony, which can minimize the risk and potential loss. 

At Courtroom Sciences, our experts lead a psychology-based witness training program designed to help prepare healthcare professionals and first responders to become composed, likable, and compelling witnesses. Speak with one of our experts to get started.

Key Takeaways

●  Many first responders tend to have more rigid personalities, causing them to appear less likable to a jury. 

●  Due to their training, healthcare professionals often struggle to give short, concise answers, which can be detrimental during a deposition.

●  At Courtroom Sciences, our witness training program is designed to help rehabilitate and prepare even the most difficult and dubious witnesses. 

●  Courtroom Sciences can help to prepare healthcare and first responder witnesses, leaving them poised, confident, and persuasive. 

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