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A Trial Witness Should Never Surprise You


If you watch any legal dramas on TV or at the movies, chances are good you know what a “surprise witness” or “surprise evidence” is. At a dramatically appropriate moment, one of the two sides will reveal something or someone that casts the whole trial in a new light. If it’s the good side the surprise will be just the thing to convince the jury or make the judge end the case then and there, and if it’s the bad side then the good lawyers will come up with a clever way to discredit the surprise.

All that is fine for a drama, but in real life court cases are much less dramatic and surprising. Real cases go through a lengthy process called discovery, and one major reason discovery takes a long time is to prevent any surprises from taking place at the trial.

Every Trial Deserves To Be Fair

Imagine this scenario: you get into a car accident with another driver who ran a red light and hit you. Because of your medical bills and vehicle damage, you submit a claim for $20,000 to the other driver’s insurance company. However, they refuse to pay the full amount, you sue them for the money, and the case goes to trial. During the trial, the insurance company produces a document that says the damage to your car is worth less than half of what you claimed.

You know this document is misleading or a fake, but how can you prove that in the middle of a trial? The answer is that you can’t. You and your legal team need time to investigate the supposed mechanic and their evaluation, and if you don’t get that time then fake evidence will have a big impact on what the jury thinks. This is why both sides of a court case are allowed to see the other side’s evidence, witness depositions, and other documents that could be related to the case.

Discovery Takes Time For A Reason

The discovery period is easily the longest part of any court case, and there’s a good reason for that. When one side comes up with new evidence, the other side gets time to plan a response. That response can include new evidence and witness depositions, and the first side can plan a response to that. The cycle keeps going until everything is out in the open, and if this happens properly it often becomes clear who’s at fault or who’s guilty and the case never has to go to trial.

But Surprises Can Still Happen

While the surprise witness you see in legal dramas is unlikely, a trial can still hold a few surprises. One side may find a witness only after the trial begins, but when this happens the judge will usually stop the trial for several days so both sides can properly prepare. You can also get a surprise testimony from a known witness, either because one side didn’t bother to depose them or the witness contradicts what they said in an earlier deposition. One reason to hire experienced trial lawyers is to avoid mistakes like these.

If you recently suffered a personal injury in Southwest Florida and you believe someone else is responsible for it, you should contact the law offices of Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh. We operate several offices throughout the region, and we help plaintiffs with all kinds of personal injury lawsuits. If your case has merit you can count on us to run the discovery period correctly, so contact us today for a free initial case review.

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

A Trial Witness Should Never Surprise You

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh




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