Out of every step involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the deposition tends to give personal injury victims the most anxiety. Since the courts will focus on determining the truth, a well-prepared and thorough deposition is crucial to your case’s success. Some clients panic when they’re called in for a deposition, but it’s actually a very easy process. Here’s what you should know about your personal injury deposition:
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a tool used as part of the pre-trial information gathering process for most personal injury cases. This is commonly known as the discovery process. Typically, depositions occur after a lawsuit is filed, but before the trial begins.
This happens at a specified time and place. You will know when and where to submit to a deposition, because the defendant’s attorney will ask you via ‘notice of deposition’, which is simply a legal request.
An out of court testimony made under oath and recorded by an authorized officer for later use in court is the technical deposition definition, according to Merriam-Webster.
Great! But, the ability to define deposition, for most clients, does not ease their anxiety about what’s to come, with respect to his or her personal injury case. We understand.
We’ll break down what deposition means for you, the personal injury victim.
What Does Deposition Mean?
A deposition for personal injury cases, is when the other party’s attorney asks you questions about the facts, details and circumstances surrounding your case.
While giving your deposition, you’ll be under oath. This means that you must provide all answers as truthfully as possible and answer to the best of your ability, by law.
A court recorder will be present to record everything said during the deposition. If your case doesn’t settle before trial, your deposition testimony can be used in court, down the road.
Why Is a Deposition Important to My Personal Injury Case?
Your deposition is important because, more than likely, it’s your first opportunity to give your testimony, off-the-record. It’s your chance to share your side of the story.
The deposition creates a written record, for if your case goes to trial.
Your deposition established the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, in your own words. It also provides both of the attorneys an opportunity to evaluate your case, as well as, how you may respond if you’re called to testify in court, in the event of a trial.
Personal Injury Deposition vs Interrogation
If you’ve watched any Law and Order or any other courtroom TV shows, you’re likely to assume that your deposition will look more like an interrogation–with a sweaty attorney yelling questions at you, in an attempt to catch you lying. Strike this from your thoughts. This is not a deposition.
In civil lawsuits, or personal injury cases, depositions don’t even occur inside a courtroom. More than likely, you’ll be in a conference room or someone’s office. The process is much more laid back than personal injury victims paint in their mind.
The defense attorney for your case will typically be very polite. Attorneys see a decent amount of one another, so we understand the importance of everyone getting along. Furthermore, some defense attorneys are extremely nice. After all, the more information you provide, the more they’ll have to use down the road.
What Happens at a Deposition?
During the deposition, the defense attorney will ask you a series of questions and record your answers. As a personal injury attorney, I cannot give you the answers or speak on your behalf, during the time. However, we’ll work together beforehand, to go over some of the questions you may be asked during your deposition.
Personal Injury Deposition Questions
The questions that arise during your deposition are called “interrogatories”. These interrogatories are typically the same and you can expect to answer the following:
- General background
- Work or trade
- General family information
- Contact information
Prior Physical Condition
- General health information
- Information specific to the body part that was injured
- History of injuries
- For brain injuries, questions to establish lifestyle before the accident
The way you answer these questions will establish what your health and life were like, before the accident. These questions create a point of comparison for the attorney.
Accident Timeline (Expect Specific Questions)
- How did the accident occur?
- What was your reaction to the accident?
- What was the weather like?
- Were there witnesses, if so, who?
- How did you feel that day?
- What did you do that day?
- Did you talk to anyone before the accident?
- Who did you talk to after the accident, if anyone?
- What did you say after the accident?
You’ll want to really prepare for this portion of the deposition. Even though the other attorney isn’t trying to trick you, accidents tend to happen very quickly and are often emotional memories. So, if you don’t have a personal injury attorney to go over these questions with you, you will find yourself turned around, losing your train of thought, and forgetting important details that could alter the course of your case, during this section.
You’ll want to be as specific as possible, while remaining as honest as you can. It’s okay if you can’t remember every detail.
- Provide general information about your injury or injuries
- How were you injured?
- Were you treated immediately?
- Where were you treated?
- Did you go to the ER or your primary care doctor?
- Did you have surgery? Multiple surgeries?
- Were you admitted into the hospital?
- Describe your follow-up care
- How strictly did you abide by the doctor’s orders afterwards?
- Are you still receiving treatment?
- Do you have ongoing care, such as physical therapy?
This portion of the deposition is also vital to your case. Your answers will support your answers, later on, if your case does go to trial. They prove that the accident has, in fact, affected your well-being.
Your Life Post-Accident
- Provide a statement about how your life has changed since the accident.
- Costs incurred
- Plans altered
- Emotional pain
Now, this portion of the deposition may be emotional for you, and that’s ok. Honestly, it’s completely understandable. Although this isn’t the most important part of your deposition, it will, more than likely, be the most difficult part for you to answer. Just know, for both attorneys and the recorder, this isn’t our first rodeo. We know to expect difficulty, and believe it or not, lawyers are typically very reasonable people.
Deposition Law: How to Give a Deposition
A personal injury deposition, similar to interviewing, is one of those times where it’s easy to become hyper-aware of everything you do, and that’s ok. It’s expected.
You know that every sentence, word choice, gesture will be noticed and recorded. This fact, in itself, causes personal injury victims to stress themselves out or clam up.
However, you’ll be prepared for the questions. We will make sure of that, beforehand.
Here’s a few other tips to consider and start working on, for during the deposition:
Deposition Tip #1 – Dress and act professionally.
- Take your deposition seriously
- Dress in clean, casual business or church attire
- Show up early
Deposition Tip #2 – Be polite.
- Don’t get defensive or angry
- Remain calm
- Rest assured, if the attorney asks anything inappropriate, I will speak up before you start your answer.
Deposition Tip #3 – Don’t lie or exaggerate.
- You’re under oath, so you must answer honestly.
- If you aren’t sure, say that–that’s part of being honest.
- Don’t “fill in” details you don’t remember. This could hurt your case.
- As tempting as it may be, don’t overstate your symptoms or facts that surround the accident.
- Even if the facts seem damaging or embarrassing, still answer honestly
Deposition Tip #4 – Take your time.
- Give me most thoughtful, truthful answers possible
- If you need to pause to reflect, do so.
- Make sure the attorney is completely finished with his or her question, before answering.
- If you feel yourself getting upset, take as much time as you need to collect your thoughts and calm down.
- If you’re confused, ask, and if the question is unclear, ask what they’re referring to, specifically.
Deposition Tip #5 – Keep your answers short and simple.
- Avoid small talk, jokes, etc. It isn’t your job to “break the ice”.
- Provide clear, concise and straightforward answers
- It’s the defense attorney’s job to ask what he or she needs to know. So, don’t provide any information you think will be helpful. Don’t do their job for them.
- Don’t give extra details, unless you’re asked.
- Once you’ve answered, avoid going back to “add more”. This is more than likely your nervousness trying to fill in the silence.
- Do not attempt to explain or justify your answers.
- If I see that you’ve left out an important part, at the end, I will ask you clarifying questions to flesh out your answers.
Deposition Tip #6 – Don’t ever answer a question you don’t understand.
- If you aren’t sure, ask clarifying questions, always.
- Don’t allow the other attorney to alter your answers in any way.
Deposition Tip #7 – Be prepared.
Preparation is key for personal injury depositions. It’s one of the many reasons that you need a personal injury attorney, after an accident.
We will role play, to allow you to practice giving calm and straight-forward answers.
With practice and help from myself or your personal injury attorney, your deposition doesn’t need to be an overly stressful situation. You will be more than ready before you go in.
However, typically, for those who choose to represent themselves in a personal injury case, the deposition is the turning point. It’s the time where they realize they’re in over their head. If this describes your situation, now would be a good time to call a personal injury attorney to help you with your deposition.
Greenwald Law Firm: Deposition Strategy for Personal Injury Victims
Well-prepared clients give the best depositions, period. We represent personal injury victims and handle a wide array of personal injury claims. Before you speak with an insurance adjuster, call us. After a few minutes, I can inform you of your legal options so that you can go forward into your deposition with confidence!