A deposition is a routine step in a personal injury case. This is a formal, pre-trial testimony in which you will be asked to answer a series of questions about the case. It is common to be summoned for a deposition in cases involving wrongful death, personal injury, and similar incidents.
The purpose of a deposition is to answer questions about the facts of the case. But it’s important to consult with an attorney beforehand to make sure you are prepared.
If you’ve been called for a deposition, read on for a few tips on what to expect, and what you should and shouldn’t do during your testimony.
What to Expect
Who is present?
In a two-party case, a deposition will typically involve the plaintiff, the defendant, and their lawyers. A court reporter will also be present and possibly a videographer.
Where does the deposition take place?
Depositions typically take place in the attorney’s office, often in a conference room. In cases of personal injury, however, depositions may occur elsewhere too. For example, in the case of injury, a deposition could take place at the treating doctor’s office. If the injury occurred on-site at a workplace, like a factory, a deposition could take place there as well.
How long does a deposition take?
Depositions can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the case. You should consult with your attorney to better understand what to expect based on the specifics of your case. The good news is, you have the right to take breaks, and you do not have to give your testimony in one sitting.
15 Tips for Giving a Personal Injury Deposition
While every case is unique, there are some general rules on how to give a successful deposition. Below we’ve outlined some of the most important things to keep in mind when giving your testimony, including how you should answer the questions, what not to say at a deposition, and more.
Tell the truth
During a deposition, it is important to stick to the facts and tell the truth. Nothing is worse for a case than getting caught in a lie. This not only ruins your credibility as a witness, but it’s also considered perjury—which is a crime in itself. Before giving your testimony, you and your lawyer should review photographs, documents, and any other data surrounding your case. This will ensure you are prepared and that you do not answer to any objectionable questions.
Listen carefully and only answer the question asked
Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s what I always tell my clients. During a deposition, don’t overshare or volunteer information. As this could potentially harm your cases. Listen carefully, and answer the question as clear and concise as possible.
Don’t nod your head while listening or use “uh-huhs”
This one is tricky, as we are all taught to lean forward and nod our heads as we are listening. We all do it subconsciously, but it’s important to hold back during a deposition. A deposition needs to be as clear as possible and avoid any confusion around your testimony. Even a subconscious “uh-huh” could be misinterpreted as an agreement to a statement or question being given. Don’t let the opposing side trick you into making it seem like you are agreeing to something that you are not.
Ask for clarification if needed
Don’t be afraid to ask the questioner to repeat or rephrase the question. You should never answer a question you don’t understand. You want to make sure you understand the question completely so that you don’t provide misinformation.
Don’t be afraid to say “I Don’t Know”
If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” A deposition is considered a sworn testimony. Answering a question based on speculation, a guess, or a hunch could ultimately hurt your case or be considered perjury.
Watch out for compound questions
Compound questions are not allowed during a deposition. By law, the questioner is supposed to split compound topics into two questions in order to avoid misinformation. If a compound question is asked during your deposition, your attorney should object. For example, if the question is “Isn’t it true that the traffic signal was red but you failed to press the brake?” your attorney should object and you should refrain from answering. In this example, the questioner should rephrase and ask, “Is it true the traffic signal was red” and “Did you fail to press the brake?”
Don’t use hyperboles like “always” and “never”
In common speech, we sometimes use words like “never” and “always” for emphasis. In a deposition, however, these words are too definite, and they could hurt your credibility if their claims turn out to be false. Only say these words if you mean them literally and you are sure without a shadow of a doubt that you’re correct.
Don’t get tricked into volunteering information
During a deposition, the other side may attempt to box you in and trick you into providing information that you are not sure about. This is especially common in cases involving speed, time, and distance. For example, if you are asked “How fast were you driving at the time of the accident?”,’ you can answer “I don’t know” if you don’t know the exact speed. Alternatively, you could provide a range of speed if you feel comfortable doing so. However, don’t feel pressured into answering if you are not sure.
For example, the questioner could press on by asking “do you think you were driving between 50 and 55 mph?” Unless you are sure of how fast you were driving, do not let them restrict you and box you in with the questions.
Don’t let the opposing side put words in your mouth
The opposing side may also try to trick you with leading questions. These questions are typically objectionable. For example, they may say something like “Isn’t it true that while you were speeding you failed to notice that the light turned yellow?” If in this case you know you were not “speeding” say something. Do not let the opposing side make their question seem like a fact when it is not.
Look out for other tricks like continuous “yes” questions
Another trick sometimes used by attorneys is asking a series of easy questions that require a simple “yes” response, but then slip in an incriminating question. You may have seen this technique on the big screen, and it’s used in personal injury deposition questions too. Don’t get tricked into saying “yes” repeatedly and then accidentally saying it when you meant to say “no.”
Circle back if needed
During your deposition, you may want to circle back to a previous question. Whether you just remembered something, or you want to elaborate on a previous answer, you are entitled to do so. Don’t hold back, this is the time to speak your truth.
Ask to review documents if needed
Sometimes you may be asked a question that relates to a specific document. Witnesses are allowed to review any documents mentioned during the deposition. This could help you refresh your memory and ensure you are answering the question accurately. Remember, only provide an answer if you are certain it is true.
Listen to your attorney
During your deposition, you will not be able to consult your attorney before answering. However, you can pick up on signals that they provide during the questioning. For example, if your attorney objects to a question on the basis that it would require you to speculate, this could be a signal to answer “I don’t know.”
Depositions can sometimes be frustrating. But it’s important to stay calm and never lose your temper. The opposing side may ask you questions that seem irrelevant. Or, they may try to get under your skin. Don’t let this affect you. Staying calm is the best way to ensure you are answering the question correctly. Anger and frustration can make you speak out of line. Remember, you are being recorded. Speaking out of anger is exactly what not to say at a deposition.
Ask for a break
Depositions can be long and tiring. But the good news is, you can ask for breaks. If you’re feeling worn out, or if tensions are running high and you’re starting to get frustrated, take a break, consult with your attorney, and regroup. This will allow you to keep a level head and ensure you’re answering the questions to the best of your ability.
Get Legal Assistance for your Case Deposition
If you have been injured in a Palm Beach County car accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call (561) 513-4957 now.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. If you need advice on specific legal issues, please consult with a licensed Personal Injury attorney.