Tips on Courtroom Etiquette
The vast majority of cases resolve before having to see the inside of a courtroom, during settlement negotiations. Settlement negotiations with insurance companies and other entities typically don’t require a formal trial but rather a more informal mediation. Yet in some cases, the courtroom with a judge and jury is necessary to bring a case to a close. How you present yourself in court can make a difference in the outcome of the case. If you’re set to go to court over an injury claim in Minnesota, here’s what to know about proper etiquette.
Prepare Ahead of Time
The more prepared you are for your trial, the easier it will be on you. Prep as much as possible with help from your attorney, understanding the facts and laws of your claim. Your attorney will take care of most of the talking for you, but being prepared can give you better peace of mind. Don’t assume you can sit back and let your attorney handle everything. There are things you can do to help your case, such as:
- Gather information. Collect facts and documents concerning your case, such as police reports, medical records, notes from your doctor, and insurance documents. Keep this information in a clean, organized file for your court appearance.
- Arrive on time. Never make the court wait. Arrive in plenty of time to talk to your attorney and begin the trial. Punctuality is a basic courtesy in the civil courtroom. Turn off your cell phone or put it on silent mode before entering the courtroom.
- Dress appropriately. Wear conservative, formal clothing that is not too casual or revealing. A suit, pantsuit, or skirt suit is appropriate for the civil courtroom. A clean and tidy appearance as for business or formal occasions is desired. When you arrive, remove your sunglasses and/or hat completely.
A lawyer can help you know what to expect during your particular court case, as well as how to dress and what to bring. If you choose to self-represent, make sure you are completely prepared for all details of the claims process. Do not overlook any detail, no matter how small.
Let Your Lawyer Do the Talking
Be silent upon entering the courtroom, and remember that someone may be recording all of the proceedings. While in the courtroom, listen to your attorney’s instructions. Your lawyer should have given you an idea of what will happen during the trial and if and when you will need to address the courts. The entire courtroom is watching you – make your actions count.
Be polite and courteous to everyone you encounter, including the attorneys for both sides of the claim. Address the judge and other members of the court respectively, with “Your Honor,” “Mr./Ms. Bailiff,” etc. You and your attorney will stand when the judge enters the room and remain standing until the judge sits. The judge represents the law. Every statement will be directed at him or her.
Do not eat or chew gum in the courtroom. The courtroom does not allow medication, food, or beverages inside. First impressions are important during a civil lawsuit. The better you dress, behave, and speak, the better the judge and jury may receive you. Do not interrupt or speak out while others are talking. The court does not look highly upon disruptions. When in doubt, stay quiet until your attorney instructs you to do otherwise. Help from a lawyer can make the court process much easier during a personal injury claim.