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Handling Difficult Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases: Direct and Cross Examinations

Tips for Managing Hostile, Evasive, Untruthful, Forgetful and Other Challenging Witnesses

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Monday, November 19, 2018

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will discuss strategies for handling difficult witnesses during personal injury litigation. While difficult witnesses will typically belong to the adverse party, they can sometimes be your own. Because of this, it is critical that attorneys know how to handle difficult witnesses in order to present a successful case.


The career of a trial attorney will undoubtedly include examining uncooperative witnesses. Difficult witnesses can occur in many forms: lying witnesses, witnesses who cannot remember, witnesses who are hostile or refuse to be led, evasive witnesses, witnesses who refuse to answer the question posed—there is an infinite number of ways a witness can be difficult, with or without trying to do so.

Cross-examinations can often be complicated because attorneys are essentially trying to prove or disprove specific facts or elements through a witness who is factually, legally or morally opposed to their client. Luckily, there are general strategies that will help gain ground against a wide variety of difficult witnesses.

Similarly, direct examinations of your witnesses who become frustrated or argumentative—or merely become flustered and forget essential facts—can be equally as tricky. A prepared attorney must gently steer their witness back to solid ground while keeping their witness’ credibility intact before the jury.

Listen as our distinguished panel discusses how to master the art of examining a difficult witness. If done properly, it will be an invaluable skill that will immensely benefit any attorney during their career.



  1. Overview of common types of “difficult witnesses” in personal injury cases and how to spot them
  2. How to handle cross examination of difficult adverse witnesses
  3. How to handle direct examination of your own witness if they become difficult
  4. Tactics for impeaching and/or rehabilitating a witness on the stand without harming image in front of jurors


The panel will review these and other relevant topics:

  • What are some of the common types of difficult witnesses that attorneys will encounter in personal injury cases?
  • How should attorneys approach cross-examination of a particularly difficult witness?
  • How can attorneys approach direct examinations of their witnesses if they become angry or forgetful on the stand?


O’Brien, Thomas
Thomas C. O'Brien

Senior Counsel
Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone

Mr. O’Brien is an experienced trial lawyer who has successfully represented clients in complex civil and criminal...  |  Read More

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