Tips for handling a deposition
If you are going to be deposed in your lawsuit about your car accident, you are likely to be anxious before the deposition. Most people want their personal injury lawyer to tell them what to say and how to say it. Your lawyer cannot tell you what to say, but the following general tips will help you understand and be prepared for the deposition.
General tips for having your deposition taken
- Never answer a question if you don’t understand the question.
- If you don’t understand the question respond by saying, “I don’t understand the question.”
- Never guess the meaning of a question.
- Never guess at an answer. (In a lawsuit based on a car accident defense, attorneys sometimes attempt to get you to commit to facts such as distances and speeds. For example, if you guess at an answer by saying that the approaching vehicle crossed over the center line 500 feet before the collision, the defense lawyer might start asking questions incorporating the 500 feet measurement as if it were a fact. Any line of questioning will invariably lead to inaccurate answers if it is based it on a guess.)
- Answer only what you know to be factually correct.
- You do not need to know the answer to every question.
- If you do not know an answer, the response is “I don’t know.” (Never speculate.)
- If you do not remember the information sought, the response is “I don’t remember at this time,” or “I don’t recall at this time.”
- If you are going to give an approximation as your answer, make sure that you testify that you are making an approximation.
- Be polite. There is no need to be gruff to the defense attorney. He or she will be evaluating the type of witness that you make and provide this information to the insurance company. Defense attorneys and insurance adjusters realize that juries find ways to give money to people they like and not to people that they do not like.
- Be prepared to answer the same question several times, possibly phrased several different ways. The goal may be to irritate you and elicit an unguarded or hostile response. Do not fall into that trap. Smile and answer the question amicably.
- Do not argue with the defense attorney (that’s why you hired a lawyer).
- Pay attention to your attorney when he or she objects. If your attorney objects, stop your answer until your attorney instructs you to continue.
- Don’t use medical terminology that you don’t fully comprehend.
- Never act surprised, embarrassed or defeated.
- Stay alert. Depositions can quickly become boring, but this is often the most important phase of the lawsuit. Don’t underestimate the importance of your testimony.
- How well you do during your deposition will not depend on how well you speak as much as it will depend on how well you listen.
- Listen very carefully to the terminology the defense attorney uses. You may have stated that contact was in the middle of the intersection. The defense attorney may phrase a question about when you hit the car his client was driving. This is close, but not exactly what you said, and the distinction is huge. Do not adopt the questioner’s vocabulary.
- Make sure you are aware that fatigue is a tactic of the examiner. The defense attorney may attempt to exhaust you with preliminary, background questions.
- Be precise in your answers.
- Remember, the defense attorneys do not know you and they are not interested in you. That means they are not insulting you even though you may feel as if they are. They are performing a job that has specific techniques that are applied to almost all plaintiffs. The point is that you should not take perceived insults personally. They are not intended as such. So do not be too defensive, and remember to smile.