10 Tips for Hitting a Home Run at Your Personal Injury Deposition
This entry was posted on Friday, June 10th, 2016
Posted in News & Articles | Posted by: George Heppner - San Diego Personal Injury Attorney
As a personal injury plaintiff, the personal injury deposition is far and away the most critical phase in your entire case aside from the trial itself. And since most injury cases settle long before a jury is ever sworn in, your deposition might end up being the only opportunity you have to “tell your side of the story.” With that in mind, here are 10 useful tips from a Chula Vista injury attorney to help you be the most effective witness possible:
1. Prepare in Advance
Regardless of how tedious it may seem, it’s crucial to meet with your lawyer before the deposition in order to prepare for what you’ll face on game day. Your attorney will probably want to conduct this prep session at least one or two days prior to the actual deposition date. (In the worst case scenario, you’ll meet with him/her a couple hours before the deposition begins). Keep in mind that several weeks or months may elapse between the date of your accident and the date you are actually deposed about it. Regardless of how much time has gone by, opposing counsel will question you as if the event is still fresh in your mind. As such, it’s important that you and your attorney review everything in detail so as to jog your memory.
Besides going over details of the incident itself, you and your attorney must spend time reviewing all of your medical records as they relate to the injury or injuries in question. This includes names and addresses of medical providers, approximate dates of treatment, medical examinations/scans (MRI, CT scan, X-rays, etc.), physical therapy, and anything else that may be relevant. Be especially aware of information in your records that refers to pre-existing injuries or conditions. Always speak with your attorney regarding any prior/similar complaints in your medical history so that you will be prepared when opposing counsel questions you about them.
2. Look Your Best
Try to present yourself in the best way possible at the deposition table. This may be the only time you’re in the presence of your opponent’s lawyer. Rest assured that opposing counsel will use this opportunity to observe you and gauge your potential effectiveness as a witness at trial. Depending on the situation, you may wish to consider concealing tattoos and/or removing non-traditional body piercings. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is that you should dress the way you would dress for an interview.
3. Be On Time
Do everything necessary to ensure that you will arrive at the deposition location on time (or early, if your attorney requests it). If you’ve never been to the venue, consider familiarizing yourself in advance by making a practice trip to the location.
4. Don’t Interrupt or Speak Over Opposing Counsel
At many points during the deposition, you may feel the urge to begin speaking your answer to opposing counsel’s question before counsel has finished asking it. No matter how strong this urge, do your very best to resist! This will ensure that the transcript is clear and easy to follow. It’s important to understand that the rhythm and pace of a deposition is slower and more disjointed compared to that of a regular conversation. Take your time and speak slowly.
As a related point, do your best to remain courteous and polite to everyone at the deposition table at all times. This includes the attorneys, the court reporter, any translators, and everyone else present.
5. Review Any Exhibits Before Testifying About Them
During your deposition, opposing counsel may show you certain documents (“exhibits”) and then begin asking you questions about them. Before testifying on the record about any exhibits, be sure to actually review the substance of the document itself.
6. Follow your Attorney’s Instructions at All Times
Depending on the nature or form of opposing counsel’s question, your attorney may decide to raise an objection or instruct you not to answer the question as asked. Whatever your attorney advises you to do, your best bet is to follow his or her instructions. Avoid arguing with your attorney or engaging in conversation with him or her at the deposition table as this will appear in the transcript.
7. Make Sure You Understand the Question Before You Answer It
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a deponent is trying to answer a question that you don’t understand. Whenever confused by a question, your best bet is always to ask counsel for clarification- not to speculate as to what he or she meant. By making sure you fully understand the question before answering it, you reduce the risk of volunteering extraneous information. Once you verbalize an answer it becomes a permanent part of the record.
8. Stick to the Question Asked (Don’t Volunteer Information)
Your responses should be very narrowly tailored to the specific questions that are being asked by opposing counsel. If possible, try to limit your answer to one sentence. Remember- it is opposing counsel’s job to extract the information from you.
9. If You Need a Break, Ask for One
Be mindful of your own personal needs so that you remain comfortable during the entire deposition process. This will allow you to perform better as a witness. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a break if you need to use the bathroom, get a drink of water, or take a breather. You can also request a break to go outside and speak with your attorney.
10. Tell the Truth
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Whenever giving testimony at a deposition- as a plaintiff, defendant, or any other kind of witness for that matter- be mindful of the fact that you are under oath at all times. That means you will be expected to testify truthfully and accurately to the best of your knowledge. It also means that if you do not know the answer to a particular question, you should make that clear to opposing counsel. Never be afraid to use the words “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”
If you would like to meet with an experienced Chula Vista injury attorney about injuries you suffered in an accident, call George Charles Heppner at (888) 503-6473 today.