Most people have never been deposed before. What is a deposition? A deposition is a statement under oath, in front of a court reporter who is transcribing the opposing attorney's questions and your answers. It is similar to testifying in court, but without the judge or jury present.
Be 100% Honest & AccurateThere is a difference between honest & accurate. If I asked you how many chairs are at my dining room table, and you said 6, you would be accurate, but not honest. The honest answer is "I don't know", unless of course you have been to my house. Guessing, and guessing correctly, is still a dishonest answer in a deposition when the honest answer is "I don't know".
The most important part of any personal injury case, from the plaintiffs' perspective, is the plaintiff is trustworthy. The defense attorney would love nothing more than to be able to catch you in a dishonest statement. In fact, the defense attorney, or insurance investigator, has likely hired an investigator to do a background search on you and is all prepared to catch you in a false statement. They know far more about you than you think. They have scanned all your Facebook posts, or other social media, they have access to insurance databases that show every claim you have ever made, and they may have even hired a private investigator to follow you around.
A good personal injury attorney can make a great case out of the truth. However, even a great personal injury attorney will have trouble making a case when the jury does not trust the plaintiff.
Be a Disciplined WitnessA disciplined witness is a witness that answers only the question asked, and nothing more. In a deposition, there are only two types of answers, responsive & non-responsive. Responsive answers answer the question that was asked, non-responsive answers do not answer the question that was asked. Seems simple, but let's look at an example.
I was taking the deposition of a defendant driver in a disputed liability case and my question was, "Did you have any passengers in the vehicle with you at the time of the accident?"
The answer was, "Yes, my ex-best friend Lisa". The only responsive portion of that answer was "yes", the rest was non-responsive. Just because it was on the same subject matter of the question does not make "my ex-best friend Lisa" responsive.
This is difficult for most people to grasp because if we answered questions like this in our everyday life, we likely would not have many friends. But in a deposition, it is critical that you be disciplined and answer on the question that is being asked.
Listen very carefully to the questionGiving a good deposition takes active listening. You need to understand the specifics of the question that is being asked. Most undisciplined witnesses do not listen carefully, and so they get a general sense of the question and then usually do not actually answer the question. They give some general response that is on the subject of the question, but that does not actually answer the question.
Doing this leads to very long depositions because the undisciplined witness continues to give information to the defense attorney, which fuels additional follow up questions, but does not actually answer the question on the table. Generally speaking, an undisciplined witness' deposition is substantially longer than that of a disciplined witness.
It is very difficult to answer the specifics of a question if you are not actively listening. So be ready to work at it, it's not a casual conversation.
Make sure you understand the questionIf you do not understand the question, say you do not understand and ask the attorney to rephrase the question. If you have to guess at what the question means, that is no different than guessing at what the answer is. And we know that we are not allowed to guess because guessing is dishonest.
Sometimes the attorney will use terms that you may be familiar with, but you are uncertain of the context. For example, we've all heard of the term disability, but it may mean different things in different context. The term disability means something different to an L&I lawyer than perhaps a social security attorney. Do not be afraid to ask clarifying questions if the attorney is using technical terms. Ask him or her, "what do you mean by disability?".
At other times the attorney will ask you questions that seem straight forward, but are really a question that should be for your attorney. For example, they will often ask, "are you making a wage loss claim?" That is really a question for your attorney because it usually involves a medical opinion as well. The proper question is, "did you miss any work as a result of this injury?"
Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed if you do not understand words and certainly do not try to pretend that you understand. Simply ask, "what does anterolisthesis mean?" or whatever the term is that you are unfamiliar with.