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What is a Testimony?

In many personal injury lawsuits, like those over car accidents and medical malpractice, it is common for there to be witnesses. When a witness is under oath answering questions, the information they give is called “testimony.” Testimony is evidence that lawyers can use to help make decisions about cases. Certain rules and procedures must be followed when collecting testimony to ensure it is as accurate and valuable as possible.

Not all statements made by a witness count as testimony. Witness statements must be taken formally in situations such as:

  • The Witness Has Taken an Oath: Most of the time, this means the witness swears on the Bible or another holy book. The state of Georgia lets witnesses swear to tell the truth without using a religious text if they want to.
  • Lawyers Ask Specific Questions of the Witness: Witnesses must stay on the topic at hand so as not to lead to opinions and unimportant information. Attorneys want to know certain facts about a case, and the questions they ask are meant to help them find those facts.
  • A Witness Can’t Make Guesses: Speculating is not permitted. Witnesses can only say what they saw, heard, or know for sure. They should not make assumptions.

A statement a witness makes outside of formal testimony does not have the same weight in court. Attorneys can object if a question is meant to “lead” the witness to a particular answer, if it leads to speculation, or if it has nothing to do with the case. Lawyers can also object if the witness makes a guess, goes off-topic, or refuses to answer a question.

In a formal process called a deposition, testimony can be taken before or during the trial. The questions and answers may be allowed, but later, the judge can hear objections, and specific questions can be stricken from the record.

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