What Happens in a Personal Injury Case During a Deposition?
In part three of this Injury Claims Process series, I blogged about What Happens When an Injury Lawsuit Is Filed. We covered quite a few topics in that one, including injury litigation depositions. This post will take a deeper look into what happens at a deposition.
Personal Injury Depositions: Follow the four basic rules given below.Giving a personal injury deposition can be a little intimidating for our clients. In fact, other than testifying at trial, it is usually the most stressful part of the case for the client. But it doesn’t have to be.
I often hear that clients are afraid because he or she knows the defense attorney is going to try and “trick them.” Yes, the attorney’s job is to weaken your case wherever possible. However, if you are honest and answer the questions based on your own knowledge, the power is on your side.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a question and answer session between you and the attorney(s) on the other side. It is the only chance to speak to you directly prior to trial.
Your attorney is there to defend you by objecting to improper questions and to help control the situation. A court reporter is present taking down everything that is being said in the room, so be very careful about what you say at all times.
Preparation for a Personal Injury Deposition
You should meet with your attorney prior to your deposition. Your attorney will go over ground rules for the deposition, discuss the general areas to be covered, review the facts of your case with you, and highlight any issues that may be a problem. Remember everything discussed with your attorney is privileged and cannot be disclosed to the attorney.
Basic Ground Rules for the Deposition
- Oath – You will be given an oath by the court reporter which is the same oath you would be given in court. Therefore, even though you’re typically in a conference room, your testimony is being given under the penalty of perjury just as if you were in court.
- Don’t Guess – If you do not know an answer to a question DO NOT GUESS. Guessing will only get you in trouble. If you do not understand a question, let the attorney know that you need it rephrased.
- Don’t Ramble – Answer only the question you are asked. Do not add to it if you do not need to. If you can answer the question “yes” or “no”, do so. If you need to explain an answer to benefit your case, do so. The deposition is a fact gathering session for the other attorney – it is not your day in court.
- Take a Break – Depositions are not endurance tests. If you need to break to use the restroom, get something to eat, or just re-group, you can do so. Just let your attorney know.
What Will the Defendant’s Attorney Ask in an Injury Deposition?
Personal injury depositions generally follow a certain pattern, which of course, can vary by attorney and case. Typically, the following areas are covered:
- Personal/Educational/Employment Background – The attorney will gather basic personal information. For example, are you married? Do you have children? Who were you living with at the time of the accident? This may lead to potential witnesses to determine what you were like before the accident, as well as after the accident. Educational and employment information is always asked, and is covered in much more detail if there is a loss of earnings or earnings capacity claim.
- Facts of the accident – Whether it involves a trip and fall, a defective product, or an auto accident, you will be asked questions about how the accident occurred. Your attorney will prepare you on the important issues regarding the accident.
- Injuries and Medical Care – You will be asked, in detail, what injuries you suffered and what you were feeling at different points in time. You will also be asked very detailed questions about your medical care and future prognosis. It is important to go over your medical records in preparation for your deposition. You do not need to know on the exact date you saw each doctor, but you need to generally know which doctors you saw, in what order, and what care you received from each. You will also be asked what activities you cannot do since the accident and how the injuries have affected your life in general.
A deposition does not have to be stressful, and it certainly shouldn’t harm your case. Be prepared, be honest, and be credible, and you will be fine.