General Rules of a Deposition
Depositions are recorded and transcribed, so all of your answers must be out loud. Court reporters can not record shakes or nods of the head. Answer "yes" or "no" and not "hmm-mmm" or "uh-huh." Always let the attorney finish the question before you begin your answer, the court reporter can't record two people talking at once. If you don't understand a question, don't answer it! Ask the attorney to rephrase it until you do understand it.
Tell the Truth!
Nothing ruins a case faster than a person who tries to exaggerate their claim, or who doesn't tell the truth under oath. A skilled personal injury attorney can always weave a compelling story around the truth. A lie, however small it may seem, can poison your credibility on every other aspect of your case. If you have prior injuries, don't try to hide them. Keeping them a secret only to be found out later by the insurance company will turn your good case into a worthless case.
A deposition is less about gathering information and more about determining what kind of witness you will make on the stand in front of a jury. Are you pleasant and cooperative? Or are you snarky and combative? Are you patient? Or do you have a temper? The more likeable you are, the more your case is worth. A good defense attorney will be assessing whether or not you can handle the pressure of a trial by jury. In determining what offer to make to settle your case, the first thing an insurance company considers is whether or not you are a nice person. If a jury likes you, they will find a way to award you money. If they do not like you, they will find a way to give you nothing.
Deposition transcripts are forever. Remember, it is being recorded and you are under oath. Lets say, as an example, the defense attorney asks you how fast the other car was going prior to the collision. You answer "really fast, like 50 mph" because to you, it was scary and happened quickly. The reality is, unless you are a professional accident reconstructionist or professional driver, you probably do NOT know how fast the other car was going. People also tend to think that the other car was going faster than it really was. The problem with guessing at an answer is that the deposition transcript will be pulled out at trial, and you will be made to look like you are exaggerating your case to get more money. This is especially true if there is little property damage to the car in the pictures. If you don't know an answer to a question, it is better to say you don't know, rather than to guess and end up being wrong.
Depositions can be scary, and its ok to be nervous. You will soon realize, however, that you know the answers to these questions, because they are about you! This is YOUR story, YOUR injuries, YOUR life, and no one knows it better than you. Take a few seconds after each question to really think about what the attorney is asking, and a few seconds to think about your answer before you give it. Do not give in to an attorney's attempt to speed up the answers, because rapid fire question and answer sessions lead to mistakes. You can control the pace of the deposition by thinking about the question and your answer. This will also ensure that you don't forget important items, like the kinds of activities that you have difficulty with as a result of your injuries.
What's With All These Personal Questions?!
Often in a deposition the defense attorney will ask some pretty intrusive questions, like your family history, schooling, where you lived, etc, going back for years and years. Almost every attorney will ask whether or not your have been arrested, whether you are on medication, and about your emotional or mental history. If you are like most people, you do not understand why they are asking these questions, and what business is it of theirs who your sister is and where she lives. RELAX. The attorney cares less about the answer and more about how you react to being asked the question. If there is an inappropriate question, your attorney will step in and challenge the other lawyer. You should never do that yourself, or show anger or irritation at the other lawyer. To them, its not personal, its just business. Overly personal questions are just part of a mind game, designed to irritate or annoy you, to test whether you have a temper that the attorney can exploit at trial. Stay calm