What is a Deposition?
When you have a personal injury suit against another person or company, the courts’ purpose, if and when a lawsuit is filed, will be to determine the truth. Depositions of parties, witnesses and health care providers become necessary to determine what they know and to try to obtain all the facts before the case moves to trial. A deposition is nothing more than a tool used as part of the pre-trial information gathering phase for personal injury cases. You’ll be required to appear at a specific time and place in order to give your testimony to the opposing counsel. Before you start the process, you’ll be asked to swear under oath that the information provided will be truthful and accurate to the best of your knowledge. The questions asked and your responses are transcribed by a court reporter and sometimes are also video recorded. Your statements are considered evidence and might be presented to the judge or jury.
What’s the Purpose?
The purpose is to obtain important facts about the case. These details may be used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your particular claims. The attorney or court officials will ask for more information so that they can determine how and why your injury occurred. However, there is another purpose to the deposition of which you may not be aware. This is that a deposition will shed light on how a person will testify at the trial if the case does not settle. This information may become part of the strategy for either your attorney or the opposing counsel.
Why is it Important?
Depositions are an important part of any personal injury lawsuit. A strong, factually consistent deposition can strengthen your personal injury claim and might lead to a settlement. However, a flawed deposition can undermine your credibility and devalue your claim. Defense lawyers and insurance companies constantly look for inconsistencies and ulterior motives in personal injury claims. A simple misunderstanding or misstatement might have serious ramifications.
What Can You Expect from a Deposition?
Depositions generally follow similar formats. Usually, the attorney for the other side will ask you a series of questions and record your answers. Although your attorney can’t feed you answers during a deposition, you can work with your attorney to anticipate and prepare for the defense attorney’s deposition questions. Those questions are usually asked in a general order that can be predictable. Often, they will start with general background or personal information, this can include questions about who you are, where you were raised, your education and employment history, family and marital circumstances, etc.
Then, you will likely be asked questions about your physical condition prior to the incident and injury. For example, if you hurt your right shoulder, the attorney might ask if you are right or left-handed, if you had prior injuries to your arm, shoulder, or back that might have contributed to your current condition. This part of the deposition can become especially important if your injury involves cognitive symptoms, as many brain injuries do. If you suffered a concussion or other brain injury, your injury isn’t necessarily visible to the naked eye, so it’s important to paint a vivid picture of what your health was like before the injury. Regardless of the type of injury you’ve suffered, though, the way you answer these questions will establish what your life and health were like before your injury and create a point of comparison for your after-injury state.
Next, you will most likely be asked about information regarding the injury-causing event itself. The insurance defense attorney will want you to record how the incident happened in your own words and in as much detail as possible. You can expect to be asked questions like: How did the incident occur? What was your initial reaction to it? Were there witnesses? What was the weather like? What was your mental state? Did you converse with anyone during or immediately after the incident? What was said during those conversations?
Following that, you may be asked to describe your injuries. You will need to give a detailed account of your injuries. How were you injured? Where were you treated? Were you treated by your primary care physician or an emergency room doctor? Were you admitted into the hospital? Did you have surgery? What was your follow-up care like? Did you follow the doctor’s advice? Do you have ongoing care such as physical or occupational therapy? The details of your injury are very important, as they will support your later answers about how the injury has affected your physical, mental, emotional, and financial well-being.
Lastly, depositions almost always end with questions about your life after the incident. This is your opportunity to testify about how your life has changed since the injury. You will be able to paint a picture of how your life today differs from the lifestyle you previously enjoyed and the future you had planned, including any limitations you have experienced, costs you have incurred, and emotional pain you have suffered as a result of the incident.
Tips for a Great Deposition
Tell the truth.
The insurance lawyer already knows the answers to 80% of the questions asked, so tell the truth.
Don’t Misstate the Facts or Exaggerate
You may have limited memories of the incident. While you might feel tempted to overstate your symptoms and the facts surrounding the incident, it’s never a good idea. When you exaggerate or are dishonest, the insurance defense lawyer will use these statements against you during settlement negotiations and in court.
Make Sure You’re Well-Prepared
Before your deposition, you should review any incident reports, medical records, notes, diaries, and other evidence that might refresh your memory.
Take Your Time
When you testify, a few seconds of silence can feel like an eternity. Sometimes, clients feel like they have to provide quick answers. However, if you need time to think, take all the time you need.
Stay Professional and Polite
The insurance defense lawyer will probably ask you personal or uncomfortable questions, trying to shake your confidence or undermine your credibility. Don’t take the bait. If you become combative or angry, the defense lawyer will use your bad behavior against you. If you need a break to calm down or compose yourself, ask for one.
Keep Your Answers Short and Simple
Give the simplest, most honest answer you can—and stop talking once you’ve answered the question.
Never Answer a Question You Don’t Understand
Unless you ask for clarification, everyone will assume that you understood the questions asked. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get overwhelmed during a deposition. If you need something reworded or explained, don’t hesitate to ask.
At Paradowski Law, we know that well-prepared clients give good and accurate depositions. We will make sure you feel comfortable and confident, if and when the time comes. We represent personal injury victims in Brazos County and throughout Texas, and we handle a wide variety of personal injury claims. Before you speak with an insurance company about your case, contact us for a free consultation. (855) 524-2976