Things to Know Before Your Personal Injury Deposition
A deposition may be the only time a personal injury plaintiff gets to tell his or her story. Many cases settle shortly after depositions, and a good one can show opposing attorneys and insurance adjusters just how good your case is. On the other hand, a bad deposition can turn a great case into a difficult one.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a question and answer session with the other side’s attorney. The other attorney will ask you questions regarding your case. You will give answers. Your attorney will be there with you during the deposition. A court reporter will also be there, taking down everything that is said.
A deposition can be a nerve-wrecking experience, and the anticipation may be more stressful than the deposition itself. Your attorney should prepare you for a deposition by giving you an overview of what you can expect to happen.
Why Do I Have to Do a Deposition?
Once you file a lawsuit in a personal injury case, the other side has a right to find out what information you have about the accident and your injuries so they can be prepared for trial, if the case doesn’t settle. They are entitled to discover these facts, your recollections and impressions through the use of things like a deposition (oral questions and answers).
Where Does a Deposition Take Place?
Depositions usually take place in a law firm's conference room. There is no judge present, but a court reporter will swear you in and you must take an oath to tell the truth just as if you were testifying in court. The opposing attorney will ask you questions, not only to learn about the facts of the case but to also find out how you'll come across to a jury.
What Kind of Questions Will They Ask?
The defense attorney in a personal injury case will generally ask questions of the plaintiff that cover the following areas:
General background information
- Name, address, date of birth, who is in your family, education, work history, etc.
- How did it happen? Who were the witnesses? Did you talk to anyone after the accident? What did they say?
- For example, in a slip and fall case where you broke your left arm, the defense lawyer is going to want to know if you are left handed or right handed, and he or she will want to know if you had any problems using that arm before the accident.
Medical Treatment and Physical Condition
- What injuries did you sustain in the accident? Who treated you? Did you go to the hospital? Did you see your family doctor?
- What did the orthopedic doctor do? How long did you have to stay home from work after your surgery?
Information About the Impact of the Injuries on Your Life
- What are you no longer able to do? What are you able to do but only with difficulty?
Tips for Your Deposition
Your attorney will meet with you before the deposition to help you prepare. Often the deposition takes place a fair amount of time after the underlying accident or incident occurred. So, your attorney might review case documents with you to help refresh your memory. Let your attorney know if you feel nervous about being questioned. Your attorney can practice asking you questions until you feel comfortable with the process.
Make a good impression. Dress well and be well-groomed. One thing the attorney asking the questions is trying to determine is how likable or truthful you'll appear to a judge or jury.
Speak up. Talk clearly and answer out loud so the court reporter can record you answers.
Be professional. Remember that a deposition follows a question and answer format. It's not a casual conversation. Don't make small talk or jokes. These often don't come across well in the written transcript.
Take your time. Listen to the complete question before you begin to answer. It’s always a good idea to pause before answering. This gives you a chance to strategically form a response, and it gives your attorney time to make an objection if one is needed.
Break time. Ask for a break from the proceedings if you need one, even if it's just for a few minutes. Stretching your legs or getting some fresh air helps you stay alert. But be careful about what you say "off the record" during breaks. You may be asked about things you say when you are later back “on the record."
Be polite. Don't argue with the attorney asking the questions. It's your lawyer's job to object to harassing or improper questions.
Avoid the guessing game. Don't be afraid to say "I don’t remember," "I don’t know," or "I don't understand the question." If you have to guess or estimate, say "I'm guessing" or "I'm estimating."
Keep it short. Give brief, accurate answers, such as "Yes," "No," or “I don’t know.” Do not volunteer any information. Just answer the question that is asked, and no more.
Where does it hurt? Be prepared to describe your injuries. Is your pain, constant, sharp, dull, or achy? Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Don't exaggerate your injuries, but don't minimize them either.
Tell the truth. This is obviously critical. You’ll be asked the same questions several times during your case, and any inconsistencies will come back to hurt you.
In conclusion, your deposition can be a nerve-wrecking experience, but you should rest easier knowing that the anticipation may be more stressful than the actual deposition itself. Don’t worry. You will be fine.
Contact Quintana Law
If you or a loved one has been injured and someone else is at fault, please contact Quintana Law for a FREE consultation at (602) 403-6815. We can help.