Do's and Don'ts During a Personal Injury Deposition
Depositions can be scary things. Every word you speak is recorded by a person using a transcription device that looks like an alien artifact. Lawyers are lined up along the table, and usually nobody's smiling. Don't worry -- we'll get through this together. Just follow these instructions.
DO... think before you speak.Remember, everything you say is being transcribed by a court reporter. What you say is going to be immortalized in a court transcript, and the other side is going to use your words against you if you trip up.
Don't be afraid to take your time, think about the question and even ask for the lawyer to repeat his words. You can also ask him or her to elaborate or to explain the question. If you fail to understand something, don't be shy -- say it! You're even free to say that you don't remember something or that you'd have to check your medical records. Don't hold yourself to an answer that you aren't 100% sure is true.
DON'T... help the other attorney.Go against your helpful nature here. Your answer should only be a sentence long, maybe two. It's been said that lawyers are actually the worst witnesses, because they can't help themselves when they testify -- they can only give long, colorful answers that provide all of the information required. Don't do that! Be curt but courteous. Make the other lawyer work for the information he or she wants. Don't give it to them.
DO... act professional.Dress well for your deposition. You don't necessarily need to wear a suit, but look clean, well-groomed and presentable.
Always treat the other lawyers with courtesy. They're just doing their jobs, and they aren't out to get you. When they get their "war face" on, you have to get yours on as well. Remember, it's a game. You're both playing different sides, but that doesn't make you mortal enemies. Be calm, polite and ready to engage.
Speak clearly during the deposition, and try to remember that the court reporter cannot transcribe head movements like nodding or "uh huhs." Also, don't try to be cute or make jokes. These generally don't land well.
DON'T... ask your lawyer for clarification.Your lawyer can't help you once the deposition starts. His or her only purpose in there is to protect you from improper questioning. If you have any questions for your attorney once the deposition begins, you'll have to write them down or try to remember them for when you take a break. And remember -- if your attorney objects to something, stop talking immediately.
DO... draw a picture.When illustrating your injuries, be very clear. Don't just point to your injury and say, "It hurts." Anyone can do that, and it doesn't help your case at all. You really want to dig in here and show them what you've been living with since your accident. You want them to feel your pain and experience it with you. This is especially important for someone who is just reading a court transcript after your deposition. You want them to read that transcript and understand what you have been living with.
Say, "I have a stabbing pain in my midsection." "It feels like a rusted knife in my shoulder." "I can't lift my right arm more than 30 degrees before I feel a snapping sensation in my shoulder." Use your command of the English language and truly evoke a sensation of pain in that court transcript. Bring those lawyers into your world. This will show the other attorneys that you will make a good witness in front of a jury. Keep your answers short and to the point. Be honest, and don't try to make your injuries sound worse than they actually are -- just use the power of your words to bring them to life.
DON'T... forget about yourself.Depositions are marathons. Don't forget to bring snacks and water, and definitely ask for multiple breaks. Also, if necessary, ask for accommodations like a back rest or pillow for your chair if your injuries make sitting for long periods of time uncomfortable. You can also ask to walk around the room if sitting is uncomfortable; the court reporter just has to be able to hear your answers. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need!
DO... review your medical records.It helps to review your medical records the night before a deposition. You need to know when certain doctors' visits happened, who you saw, what happened during those visits, etc. This information doesn't need to be memorized, and you can certainly ask to refer to the material during your deposition. You can also say that you don't remember exactly which visit is in question. This is as much of a test as anything you did in school, so study!