A GUIDE TO AVOIDING COMMON MISTAKES AT DEPOSITION Even the most experienced witness is apt to make a mistake during a deposition. As someone without extensive experience testifying, a plaintiff will almost certainly not recognize the tactics and carefully laid traps that insurance defense lawyers utilize while deposing fact witnesses. This often leads to Plaintiffs marching through a deposition, forgetting the attorney’s advice, and being surprised at the end when they’ve made costly errors. As a Plaintiff, it is very important to remember certain basic rules to avoid costly mistakes during depositions. A costly mistake is not simply forgetting a date or the exact time of day that something occurred, but rather a mistake that calls in to question the plaintiff’s credibility or likeability as a witness. These are the two most important qualities that a witness must have in order to be effective in persuading the jury. This means that during a deposition, your job is protecting your credibility by being truthful and to prove that you are a friendly, likeable person. By achieving these two simple goals during a deposition, you will avoid the costly mistakes that many witnesses make, and you will protect the value of your case. The following tips are basic guidelines for advancing your goals at deposition and avoiding the defense-laid traps. 1. Conference with your Attorney: It is your attorney’s job to advise you concerning every aspect of litigation, and most attorneys will meet with clients to prepare them for depositions. This meeting allows your counsel to advise you on probable topics that defense counsel will cover, to prepare you for obviously touchy subjects that may come up, and to remind you to of the goals of deposition. This meeting is vital, because your attorney may have a goal in mind that you haven’t thought of, or may have a particular area of concern that he or she wishes to discuss. Always attend this meeting. Whether in person or over the phone, you should never fail to meetwith your counsel before being deposed. It is important to know what to expect when you walk into a deposition and to remember that defense counsel’s goal during the process is to uncover anything that will help the insurance company’s case. 2.** Ask questions before the deposition:** I’ve already said that a meeting with your attorney is vital in preparing for a deposition, but that’s not where it ends. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney to clear up any questions that you have. You don’t want to appear confused or uncomfortable during the deposition. Remember that likeability is a very important characteristic of a good witness; part of being likeable is not appearing to be socially awkward or uncomfortable with the situation. The only way to avoid these dangers is to be absolutely confident in what you are about to do before a deposition begins. So ask your questions, voice your concerns, and don’t be afraid of oversharing with your attorney. He or she is there to protect you and be your biggest ally. The litigation attorneys at the Dolman Law Group will always seek to keep you comfortable with the direction of your case. Every client is given the person contact information of their assigned attorney, including a cell-phone number so that they never feel left in the dark. 3. ** Do Not Attempt to Hide Information:** Always remember that your credibility is your most important weapon as a witness. Defense counsel’s primary goal in deposition and almost every other discover tool is finding ways to attack your credibility. Whether by discrediting your description of the events that led up to your injury, by pointing out inconsistencies, or by using evidence of untruthful behavior or inconsistent statements, the insurance company must find a reason for the jury to not believe your story. No matter what you do, and how good of aperson you are, they will find something. So don’t hide it; don’t be afraid to tell the truth. Facts from your past can only do a certain amount of damage, but evidence of untruthful action during ongoing litigation will destroy your credibility. 4. ** Stay Comfortable:** Depositions can sometimes last several hours depending upon the complexity of your case and the insurance company’s attorney. Remember that you have a right to takes breaks as necessary, to use the restroom, to have water available, and to be comfortable during the deposition. If you need a break, ask for it. Remember that you want to remain as collected as possible throughout the deposition so try to remain as calm and comfortable as possible. 5. ** Do Not Lose Your Temper: This one comes down to likeability. The insurance company’s counsel may attempt to goad you into losing your temper by asking difficultpersonal questions concerning your credibility, by being negatively suggestive, or by being somewhat repetitive. Do not mistake this for stupidity, or bad character of the attorney; it is very likely that these are calculated attempts to determine whether you can be forced into adverse behavior while testifying. Again, remember that likeability is one of your two major goals as a witness. Jurors have a hard time liking a witness that appears combative, whether it is justified or not. So remain calm, answer the questions that are presented to you, and avoid allowing the defense counsel to control your emotions. This will prove your value as a witness and make the insurance company fear a jury trial. 6. ** Only Answer the Questions Asked: While you are being deposed, you may find yourself anticipating follow-up questions and trying to speed things up by offering additional information. This does not benefit you. The insurance company wants you to offer as much information as possible without their having to probe for it. Offering additional facts can only benefit them and damage your case. Answering a deposition question is very simple. First listen to the question itself. Second, think about the question in your head and focus on exactly what fact the question is asking you for. Then, give a simple answer and explanation concerning that fact alone. Once, you’ve given an adequate short answer and explanation… stop talking. This will force the insurance attorney to work harder for his information and avoid helping him get what he needs to attack your testimony. The most important thing to do during a deposition is to remain honest and truthful. Credibility is your greatest weapon and anything that discredits your testimony is a knock against your case. Jurors will be very adverse to any untruthful assertions that you make during the course of the litigation; so, remain honest in your answers, don’t try to hide facts, and remember to keep your cool. These very basic tips will help you get through your depositions with as much credibility as possible, and force the insurance company to more aggressively consider settling the case before trial. For more information concerning litigation, depositions or personal injury law, please call the motorcycle injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation. You can reach us at: (727) 451-6900
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