A deposition can spell the difference between a strong personal injury claim and a weak one.
The deposition is an integral part of discovery or the pre-trial process where both parties investigate the facts of the case by obtaining evidence from each other. Apart from depositions, the parties also use various means of discovery, such as a request for admissions, request for answers to interrogatories, and request for production of documents and objects.
If you filed a personal injury claim and later received a Notice of Deposition, what does that mean, and how do you go about it? Read on to learn more about deposition and how to prepare for it.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a process where a witness’s testimony is obtained before trial. While the statements are taken outside of court, the witness is still under oath while being deposed. The parties use the information from the deposition to strengthen their respective claims.
This usually takes place at a law office where the defending and prosecuting attorneys, a court reporter, and the deponent are present. It may be in the form of a recorded video, transcript, or both.
A party may take the deposition of the opposing party or any other witness. Both parties have the right to be present during the deposition. If a witness is unavailable at trial, their deposition transcript may serve as their official testimony.
7 Essential Tips for a Successful Deposition
What happens during a deposition is that the opposing counsel will ask you questions about the case. It’s a question-and-answer session between you as the deponent and the other party’s attorney. A court reporter also records the conversation either via audio or video.
It can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time. But there’s no deposition proper preparation can’t beat. Follow the tips below, and you’ll be alright.
1. Review the facts of your case
It’s crucial that you go over the details of the case with your attorney to avoid confusion during the deposition. Also, follow the instructions from your lawyer—the last thing you want is to give conflicting statements to the opposing attorney.
Reviewing the facts of the case also allows you to refresh your memory of what happened. In turn, it enables you to recognize both strong and weak aspects of your case. You and your attorney can build on those strong points while finding ways to get around the weak ones.
2. Keep your answers concise
The rule is the shorter, the better. Hence, strive to keep your answers brief and direct to the point. As long as you’ve answered the question factually, the word count is irrelevant.
For example, yes and no questions can simply be answered with either a “yes” or “no.” Refrain from expounding your answer. Even if an underlying or a follow-up question is obvious, do not get ahead of yourself as you may open leads of inquiry to the opposing party’s attorney that can weaken your case.
Another reason brevity is a virtue in a deposition is that when you talk lengthily about something, there’s always the risk of getting the facts muddled up. This is what you want to avoid. A good rule of thumb is asking your legal counsel what not to say at a deposition.
3. Never volunteer information
In addition to keeping your answers concise, remember never to volunteer unrequested information. You may want to tell your side of the story, but it is unwise to offer information of any kind because it may do your case more harm than good.
The key is to listen carefully to the question and limit your answer to that question. For inquiries you can’t answer, don’t volunteer to get back to the examiner at a later date. Remember that the examiner is not on your side. As such, there’s no point in helping them out.
4. Ask for clarification
Take your time when answering a question, especially if you’re unsure about the answer. But first, make sure that you understand the question. If you’re asked a confusing question, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification, as this will be favorable on your end.
The risk to avoid is getting the question wrong and ending up volunteering an answer that may work against your case. Your goal is to answer only what is being asked. Asking for clarification also applies to questions about official records and documents. If the inquiry reaches that point, ask to see those cited records and documents before answering.
5. Answer only as to what you know
When answering a question, do not guess at the facts. Just because a question is asked doesn’t mean you have the answer. If you can’t recall the answer or don’t know the answer, it’s safe to say, “I don’t know,” “I don’t recall,” or “I’m not sure.”
Also, be aware when the opposing lawyer puts words in your mouth by making suggestions or forcing you to guess the answer to the question. This usually involves questions about details like time, speed, and distances.
6. Tell the truth
When in a deposition, remember that you are under oath. If you lie under oath, you can be charged with perjury. Sure, you may omit facts that don’t work in favor of your case, but that’s something you can do only if the examiner has failed to pursue the subject in their line of inquiry.
All questions you have the answer to, you must answer. You can’t stonewall the defense because they are legally entitled to relevant information. Also, remember to be consistent with the facts and state them as you know them.
7. Do not be rattled
During the deposition, resist the urge to become angry, cute, or sarcastic. Stay cool and focused, even when you feel you’ve already answered the question or if the question is inappropriate. If the questions are repetitive or inappropriate, your attorney will step in with an objection.
Also, don’t advocate your case or argue with the opposing attorney. When the opposing attorney fires questions at you, stay calm, pause, and proceed at your own pace. More importantly, think before you answer. If you need a break, you can always ask.
When you get rattled, all hell breaks loose. You might end up saying the wrong information and inaccurate accounts. You can avoid this by ensuring you had a restful day before the deposition. Get enough sleep. An hour or two before you make your testimony, try to find your focus and calm your nerves, so you’re physically and emotionally ready for the task at hand.
Preparing for Your Deposition
The key to a successful deposition in a personal injury claim is preparation. With the guidelines above, you now have a clear idea about how to prepare for a deposition. Follow the tips presented, and you’ll do just fine.
If you need a personal injury lawyer for your claim, reach out to us at RMD Law. Our team is composed of experienced lawyers ready for the tireless representation you deserve.
Contact us for a free case evaluation!