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You must have watched cross-examination of witnesses in a trial, in many popular TV series. However, there are specific strategies in cross-examining a witness in medical malpractice cases. Two key elements of a successful cross-examination are preparation, and keeping the witness on a very short leash.

You must have watched cross-examination of witnesses in a trial, in many popular TV series. However, there are specific strategies in cross-examining a witness in medical malpractice cases. Two key elements of a successful cross-examination are preparation, and keeping the witness on a very short leash.

The Importance of Preparation

Preparation is the key to a successful cross-examination and a successful case. The attorney who is going to perform the cross-examination must know every single detail about the case; as this knowledge is required to formulate the right strategy. The lawyer has to identify systematically the key areas the he believes the witness will be vulnerable to, and only then can he develop an idea about a cross-examination attack that will reveal to the jury that the witness has a faulty memory or he is not truthful.

Keeping the Witness on a Short Leash

Another thing that is vital during a cross-examination is asking the witness only leading questions. This is what is meant by keeping the witness on a short leash. If the lawyer asks open-ended questions, he will lose all control over the witness. The whole purpose of cross-examination is to ask leading questions and the lawyer would want the witness to either agree or disagree with the statement he is making. This way the lawyer will be able to control the testimony, and the witness’s answers.

At a typical good cross-examination of an accident case trial the lawyer would ask questions like this:

Isn’t it true Mr. Smith that you were here at this particular day and time?

Isn’t it true you were driving your car at that time?

Weren’t you driving your car at 50 miles per hour?

Weren’t you only 100 feet away from the intersection at that time when you were approaching it?

Isn’t it true that you wear eye glasses?

The witness will either agree or disagree, or the witness is going to say I do not know.

Duration of Cross-Examination

Due to watching many of the famous TV series over the years such as Law & Order and so on, many people think that a cross-examination will last only for three to five minutes. However, the reality is that cross-examination normally lasts much longer for most witnesses. Since the lawyer is asking leading questions, it takes a series of questions to cover all the facts. Even though the witness will be mainly giving a yes or no answer, the lawyer will be asking many questions to cover the incident fully and all other aspects connected with the incident.

Hence, that will take time, and if the witness tries to digress by giving a long-winded reply, the lawyer will have to bring him back on course by asking him to answer only with yes or no. This is crucial to keep control over the testimony, and lead the witness to the main question, which will provide the most important evidence for the case.

Preparation is one hundred percent required for winning the game, and it is essential for the attorney conducting the cross-examination to ask leading questions, and always be in control of the witness.