Personal Injury Lawyer | How to give a good deposition.
While many personal injury lawyers and individuals prefer settling a personal injury claim, there are times when a lawsuit may need to be filed and a claimant may have to go to trial. Your deposition will greatly impact the outcome of your personal injury case.
Good preparation is crucial to your success. An experienced personal injury lawyer can offer guidance, which will help you as you answer questions about your case.
In part one of this series, Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester offer some basic information on depositions.
What is a Deposition?
Your deposition is a component of the discovery process. Also referred to as an examination, a deposition involves questioning by attorneys representing those involved in litigation. During your deposition, you will provide sworn testimony which may be used to prepare for a trial. A deposition is a chance for opposing counsel to ask you questions under oath. Your answers will be recorded by a court reporter. Depositions are very serious because if you testify differently at your deposition than at trial, the deposition can be offered into evidence in order to contradict your testimony. More significantly, if a judge determines that you are lying at your deposition, he could issue sanctions and even, in dismiss your case. In addition, if your deposition testimony conflicts with earlier statements, including those made to doctors or previous employers, you could face serious problems.
Your deposition may cover some of the following areas:
- SOCIAL HISTORY
Opposing Counsel will ask you about your background. Questions, will include former residences, the schools you attended, whether you have ever been a party in any prior litigation, marriages, divorces, etc. He is entitled to ask if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Most of the material regarding your social history is not relevant to your claim. However, opposing counsel can ask questions during a deposition that may not be admissible at a trial or formal hearing.
- EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
You are likely to be asked questions about your employment history, especially if your suit includes a claim for lost wages. Try to recall the places you have worked and the wages you received. Please do not exaggerate since opposing counsel will eventually obtain your prior employment records. If you do not remember specific dates or wage rates, tell the opposing counsel that you do not remember.
- PRIOR INJURIES, PHYSICAL PROBLEMS AND PRIOR ACCIDENTS
These are the areas in which clients most often make mistakes which hurt their claims. In most cases, the existence of a prior injury, physical problem, or prior accident will not hurt you. However, clients often feel that is necessary to hide previous injuries. Clients are almost always caught when they are not truthful and being caught in lying about one’s physical history could be devastating. It is, therefore, very important that you discuss any prior injury or physical problem with your attorney beforehand and, under no circumstances, lie during your deposition, interrogatories, or trial testimony concerning prior physical problems or accidents.
- FACTS REGARDING THE ACCIDENT
Expect to be questioned in great detail concerning the facts of the accident. The other attorney will attempt to tie you down to specific lengths of time and distances. It is important that, unless you feel very confident with an answer, you do not try to guess specific distances or time periods.
- TREATMENT HISTORY AND CURRENT CONDITION
You will be asked how your doctor treated you and what your complaints are now. Defense attorneys often try to catch people exaggerating their symptoms. In the vast majority of cases, the physical problems a person suffers have resolved to some extent by the time a deposition is taken. If you feel better, you should say so and not attempt to exaggerate.