Rule #1 - Dress appropriately
Your deposition often will be the first time that you are meeting the opposing attorney. That first impression could affect the value of your case. You will be judged. Can you handle the pressure? Are you nervous? Are you scared to go to trial? Every action will be watched. Your appearance is crucial. You need to dress appropriately, yet comfortably. Never wear anything that you are uncomfortable with. Do not wear a tie if you never wear a tie. If jeans is considered dressed up, it may be acceptable to wear jeans. Your outfit should be seen by your lawyer before your deposition. If you show up with a leather suit or in a tank top, you will have hurt your lawsuit and your lawyer should be fired.
Rule #2 - Be prepared
Preparing for your deposition is essential to any Pennsylvania medical malpractice case. Not only preparing for what you wear, but making sure that you understand what the weaknesses of your case are. You need to know the details of your medical records. You need to know the facts the records support and be prepared to answer questions about them. At a minimum, you will need several hours of preparation. Start your preparation at least 30 days prior, if not more. It will harm your case if you try to wait until the last moment. You need time to digest and to think about the ways in which you will be cross-examined. I encourage practice sessions prior with your own attorney. If you appear for your deposition unprepared, it very well could cost you a substantial amount of money.
Rule #3 - No guessing
Please, do not guess. I never want to hear my clients use phrases such as "I guess" or "I think" or "I suppose". You are at your deposition to answer factual questions. Stick to the facts. If you are not certain, then an appropriate answer is "I don't know" or "I can't remember for certain". If you guess, and you guess wrong, then that inaccurate information will later be used against you in court. Worse, you could be providing valuable information to the opposing side, when you are not under the specific obligation to do so. Be prepared for your deposition and only answer facts that you are certain of. A medical malpractice deposition is not the time to guess at answers.
Rule #4 - Only answer the question asked
Not only should you "not guess", but equally as important is to "only answer the question asked". If you are asked what city you were born, your answer should be a specific city such as, 'Pittsburgh' or 'Philadelphia'. It should not be a monologue about where you grew up. Good attorneys will let the room be silent after you answer in the hope that you continue speaking. Let it be silent. Your answers should be short and succinct. Do not let awkward pauses prompt you to speak. If you are unsure about an answer, it is acceptable to state that you are uncertain or unsure. This all comes back to being properly prepared by your own attorney on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. As in politics, it can be advantageous to answer certain questions by reiterating strong points of your own case rather than by answering directly the specific question asked. You need to know the questions that you will be asked prior to your deposition so that you know how to properly respond.
Rule #5 - Absolutely no exaggerating
The biggest single mistake a plaintiff can make in their medical malpractice or personal injury deposition is to exaggerate the facts of their case. In a deposition, you need to be 100% factual and cannot exaggerate one single detail or it will harm you. Depositions are under oath testimony and can be replayed to a jury to show that you are either dishonest or not worthy of serious financial consideration. Plaintiffs sometimes believe that by exaggerating the details of their case that they are increasing the value of their case. The opposite is true. The purpose of a deposition is to discredit you and to conduct discovery that will harm you. If you provide testimony that stretches the truth on one detail, good lawyers will convince a jury that your entire testimony is suspect, and not credible. In your preparation, you should review with your attorney to what extent you should reveal specific facts of your case. However, under no circumstances should you ever exaggerate.