1. Once you are testifying in court, there is no reason to be concerned about patient confidentiality. The summons to witness is your legal authorization to disclose the patient’s personal information.
  2. You have one key task: listen very carefully to the question that is asked and answer that question fairly and honestly.
  3. Wait for the question to be completed -- listen, pause and if you don't understand the question, say so. If you need the question repeated, say so.
  4. Answer only the question that is asked, not also the ones you think are coming next. Don't volunteer answers to questions that have not been asked.
  5. Don't guess or speculate. It is always better to honestly answer, "I don't remember", then to guess at an answer.
  6. Be courteous and professional at all times.
  7. Try to speak clearly and with sufficient volume. If you are speaking too quickly, the judge or a lawyer may ask you to slow down.
  8. There are three sources of knowledge from which to answer a question:
    • what you remember;
    • what you recorded;
    • what you usually or always do as a matter of normal routine or practice.
  9. Ask to see the hospital record, where you would find it helpful to do so. It is not a memory test!
  10. Remember that just because an event or observation isn't recorded, that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Many things happen in the course of a normal working day that are not recorded in written form, but which we know we did.
  11. Be firm, but don't argue; at the same time, don't cling to unreasonable positions.
  12. Sometimes tone or wording of questions will make you feel under attack. Remember that your actions are not under scrutiny and your evidence is simply being gathered as part of the evidence of the trial.
  13. Don't give opinions that you are unqualified to give.
  14. Do not worry about where the person asking you questions is going, i.e., don’t try to over-analyze the questioner’s strategy. Stay focussed on the question you have been asked and provide your honest answer.
  15. While you are on the witness stand, you are under oath to tell the truth. If there is a break before you have finished giving your evidence, you are under an ethical obligation not to discuss your evidence with anyone, including your own legal counsel. Similarly, your legal counsel is ethically bound not to discuss your evidence with you. This is aimed at preventing any perception of improper influence.
  16. If possible, attend the courtroom prior to the day you are scheduled to give testimony so that the set-up and process will be familiar to you. Be aware, however, that there may be in place an order excluding all witnesses from the courtroom until after testifying. If that is not possible, plan to arrive twenty to thirty minutes early on the day you will give testimony, so that you will have an opportunity to view the room and the set up. Counsel will generally be in attendance at least one half-hour prior to the start of each day.
  17. When you attend the trial, either as an observer or a witness, do not discuss the case at breaks or around the building. Remember that the media may be present, as well as counsel representing other parties and possibly members of the jury.
  18. Documents that counsel wish to rely on will be entered as Exhibits and numbered in the order in which they are introduced in evidence. For example, a hospital policy may be put into evidence and given a number. If you are asked a question about that policy, it will be referred to as "Exhibit 10", the Hospital Policy on Patient Visitors, for example.
  19. If a lawyer asks you questions that another lawyer believes to be improper according to the rules of evidence, the lawyer will object to that question - another good reason to pause before you answer. Counsel will signal to the Judge their intention to object to a question or other procedural matter by rising to their feet and waiting to be recognized, and given permission to speak. Unlike legal TV shows, lawyers will not jump up and shout, "I Object!". At this point, you may be asked to leave the courtroom so counsel can make argument to the court in your absence.
  20. Summing it all up: Your only job is to answer each individual question honestly and to the best of your ability.