Good experienced workers compensation lawyers make workplace accidnt and disability hearings look easy. Bad ones make it look hard and painful. Watching poorly prepared witnesses and injured workers in court is one of Herndon Virginia workers comp lawyer Doug Landau’s least favorite activities. The attorneys who meet with their clients moments before going before the workers comp judges and who have never met with witnesses should be sent to mandatory Continuing Legal Education courses before they are allowed to try another case unprepared.
Everyone knows that you must tell the truth in court. But to see some of the people who come to court with lawyers who have not prepared is painful. The judges have often told me of their "pet peeves." These include:
- 1. Nodding. When a witness nods, the judge may be making notes or looking at a piece of evidence. They miss the answer and the tape recording equipment picks up nothing from which a coherent transcript can be made. Don’t do it.
- 2. Saying "Uhh Huhh." Judges often do not know if this is a "yes" or a "no" and the tape recorder doesn’t know either. Don’t do it.
- 3. Not speaking into the microphone. There is a reason that they are there. If they are too far away, ask if you can move them. I do in nearly every injured workers hearing.
- 4. Being late. You can be cited for "contempt of court." This can mean going to jail. If you are running late, let the court know as soon as possible. Do not assume that if there is an accident, bad weather or car trouble that the workers comp judge will be understanding. They may not be so kind. Do you really want "three hots and a cot ?!!?"
- 5. Talking over other people. This is rude. It messes up the tape recording, such that the transcript may be meaningless. This could result in the case having to be tried all over again. And that is no fun.
- 6. Chewing gum, tobacco, nicorette, or anything else. Even if it relaxes you and you do it every day, the judges will likely not be happy. Especially if you chew and spit. Even if you bring your own cup. And blowing bubbles are straight out. Even if you are just a witness or a spectator. The Bailiff may escort you out.
- 7. Not turning off cell phone or pager. This should be a no-brainer, but I see lawyers who fail to advise their clients, witnesses and staff to turn off their electronic equipment or PDAs. I have seen judges confiscate expensive electronics, even from lawyers !
- 8. Inappropriate dress. Wearing hot pants and low cut blouses may get you a date, but I have rarely seen such garb affect the outcome in a Virginia, Maryland or Washington DC workers compensation hearing. Dress conservatively, neatly and comfortably. If your collar is too tight, you cannot testify effectively if you cannot breathe ! Dress for the weather and bring a sweater in case the court room is not sufficiently heated or overly air conditioned.
- 9. Forgetting evidence. Make sure that you have sufficient copies of important exhibits. The court does not have to let you use their copy machines. Do not count on the insurance defense lawyer to bring their copies of critical evidence. And make sure your lawyer has the important papers well before the court date for the comp hearing.
- 10. Not reviewing evidence before coming to court. Just because important evidence was mailed, faxed or e-mailed to the workers comp judge, it does NOT mean that these items have made it into the judge’s file before the court hearing. We have seen cases where volume practice lawyers and non-specialists came to court only to find critical items they filed were in Richmond (or elsewhere) and their Virginia workers comp Hearing was ready to start in Manassas, Fairfax, Winchester or Berryville !