How to give a great Deposition in your Personal Injury Case
When you are involved in a Personal Injury Case, you will most likely be deposed by the other person's lawyer. This Guide will discuss simple rules to avoid mistakes that may destroy your case.
Basics on the Deposition Process - Anything can be asked and you are required to answerA deposition is a process for the attorney who represents the other party to take your statements under oath regarding the accident. It is a very important process as everything that you say will be used as sworn statements that can be used against you at the time of trial. The deposition is usually held at the opposing counsel's law office and the people who will be present will be you, your lawyer, the other party's lawyer, and a court reporter who will swear you in and type your statement as you speak.
The surprising thing to my clients is that in a deposition, the other side's attorney can ask just about ANYTHING that is related or completely unrelated to the accident; that is because under the laws of evidence, anything that may lead to "admissible" evidence can be asked - and this is the most surprising part, even though your lawyer can make an objection - YOU STILL HAVE TO ANSWER. You cannot say tap out or say I refuse to answer. So, it's important that you understand that in this process, you have to answer questions which can be completely unrelated to the accident and you HAVE to answer the question (with the exception that the question is about what you discussed with your lawyer that is protected under attorney-client privilege). So, it is important to spend a good amount of time preparing for a deposition with your attorney.
Rules of Thumb for doing great at your DepositionTo make sure your deposition is not going to hurt your case, make sure to follow a few simple rules.
1. DO NOT GUESS: When you make a guess, your responses may not be consistent with the evidence. The opposing counsel will use your response that is based on a guess and inconsistent with the facts of the case to paint you as not a credible, trustworthy person. For example, the other party's lawyer may ask "how fast were you travelling before the accident". If you do not remember, but says 15 mph, and another witness or police report states you were travelling at 25 mph, that will hurt your credibility. Thus, if you do not remember something, simply state "I do not remember". If you do not know something, simply say "I don't know" - those are absolutely fine.
2. DO NOT ANSWER A QUESTION IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE QUESTION: If you do not understand a question, ask the attorney who is asking the question to rephrase the question. The lawyer make ask question that is confusing or misleading, such as "So I understand that your car showed no damages based on what you visually observed, correct?" That question is awkward, leading, and assumes facts that may not be in evidence. Your attorney will make objections, but you still have to answer IF YOU ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD THE QUESTION. So, you can say: "I don't understand your question, can you rephrase it". That is well within your rights, and you need to make sure you understand the question 100% before you answer it. Otherwise, you are assumed to have understood the question, and you are bound by it. Do not be intimidated to answer questions that you do not understand. Take your time and listen to the question carefully before you answer. I always ask my clients to pause for 3 seconds before they answer, but it is very difficult to do. One of my clients took 30 seconds before answer a question - and he knocked the ball out of the park because every one of his answers were accurate and factual.
3. DO NOT ELABORATE AND ANSWER MORE THAN WHAT THE QUESTION ASK FOR. The other party's lawyer will seek for as much information as possible from you. The lawyer will ask questions about where you grew up, who you live with, your criminal history, your employment history, your marital status, health condition, and eventually what happened in the accident. Why do they ask so many questions? To hopefully have you say something that is not true or inconsistent. For example, one of my clients was asked if he would like to add anything to his deposition after he answered all the questions, the client decides to add that he could not lift anything heavy and did not go to the gym after an accident; the other attorney had private investigator follow him and subpoenaed his gym and it showed him carrying big boxes and that going to the gym weekly after the accident. I later found out the boxes he was carrying were empty and that he went to the gym to use the hot tub to relax his back where he was injured. Remember this is a process for the other side's attorney to find dirt on you. So, less is more.
4. Spend time preparing with your lawyer - it's well worth the time.