10 Nov Answering a deposition in a personal injury case
By Atty. Crispin Caday Lozano
If you file a lawsuit about a car accident and you are claiming personal injury, it is very likely that the opposing party or the insurance company will take a deposition on you to answer questions about your claim. The following are some suggestions about how to answer and how to handle the deposition.
1.For every question you need to take time before answering it to be sure that you are not guessing or you remember the facts correctly. It is not a conversation wherein you are very comfortable. The pattern of the deposition should be question, and then pause to think of the answer and then answer honestly.
If the deposition starts feeling like a comfortable conversation with an old friend, you’re doing something wrong. It should not roll along effortlessly like a conversation. You need to take control. You need to make sure that after you hear the question, you pause and think your answer through. After you are sure that the answer in your head is the best, most accurate answer, then you say it. Taking a pause and thinking through what you are going to say has two benefits: First it lets you “taste your words before you speak them” to make sure that you aren’t going to say something you will later regret. Second, it lets you take control of the deposition.
2. Your answer should be short or a sentence long. If your answer is longer than a sentence, you are giving too much information.
At some point in your deposition, you may feel that your answer is incomplete and you will want to further explain so that the lawyer gets what you are saying. Fight the urge. You never want to volunteer something that wasn’t asked for in a deposition. If you get the feeling that you should give more information to fully explain something, just remember that you can talk about it after the deposition is done and write a letter to the other attorney if you really have further explaining to do.
3. Dress appropriately to make a good impression. Before the deposition, plan out what you are going to wear and how you will appear. I recommend looking like you are going to church or a job interview.
4. The way to impress the other attorney is by working hard to give honest, accurate and direct answers. Once the deposition starts, forget yourself and don’t worry about how you look or how you sound when you speak. Listen closely to the question, think hard and remember the right answer, then give that answer in a sentence. When you do that, it becomes apparent to everyone else in the room that you are trying hard to give honest, accurate and truthful answers and you will look good for it, no matter what.
5. Pay attention to your basic needs – rest, food and water. A deposition is taxing. On top of the anxiety that everyone naturally has, you are going to basically ask your brain to run a mini-marathon. Your brain is not likely used to the amount of thinking that is done in a deposition. Therefore, the night before the deposition, have a decent dinner then get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, eat breakfast. When you go to your deposition, take a snack and some water, juice or iced tea. During the deposition, don’t be afraid to take ten minute breaks. Feel free to tell the attorney that you want to take a break and use the bathroom, stretch your legs, get a drink of water, get some fresh air, etc. I advise taking at least one break every forty five minutes.
6. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t remember everybody forgets things. If you don’t remember something, say “I don’t remember”. Don’t try to fill in the answer with what you guess is the right answer because once you give an answer in a deposition, you can’t change it.
7. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t understand” or “I’m not 100% sure what you’re asking”. People don’t like to admit they don’t understand the question, and they hurt their cases by not admitting they don’t know what is being asked.
8. Just because they ask you a Yes or No question doesn’t mean you have to give a Yes or No answer. One of the reasons for taking your deposition is to lock you into an answer. Instead of saying “Yes”, try saying “As far as I can recall”. Instead of “No”, you could say “I don’t recall that happening”. That way, you’re not really locked in to that answer. If you remember the information later, you can change your answer to make it true.
10. Always ask to see what they are referring to when they refer to records or reports.
10 You should be aware of what is in your medical records, particularly your medical records from before the accident. If you are making a claim for low back pain and a herniated lumbar disc from a car accident, you should know whether there are any documented complaints of low back pain in your medical records in the five or ten years before the accident.
Note: This is not a legal advice.