A key aspect of every personal injury lawsuit is the plaintiff’s deposition. A well-done deposition can go a long way in fostering the favorable resolution of your case. Conversely, a poorly executed deposition can damage or even kill your personal injury lawsuit.
After years of helping plaintiffs provide effective depositions, I have come up with four rules that will help ensure that your deposition goes well.
There is nothing more damaging to a personal injury case then being caught in a lie. Not only is it illegal to lie under oath, but it is also devastating to your credibility, even a little white lie may be seen as a big deal by a jury. The truth may not always help your case, but it will always be received better than a lie.
You will be asked many questions at a deposition. Some of the questions will be difficult to remember. It’s okay to let a defense attorney know that you either do not remember the answer to a certain question or you just flat out don’t know the answer. Don’t feel the need to answer every question. It’s okay not to know every detail of your accident. Your attorney should review all the important information about your case prior to your deposition to refresh your recollection. The rest of the information is what I call “window dressing.” It’s information the defense attorney asks just to paint a picture but has little relevance to the important issues in the case.
Do not volunteer additional information in response to a defense attorney’s question. Often, defense attorneys ask yes or no questions or questions that can be answered fairly quickly. To understand why this rule is crucial, it’s important to understand the reason why you are giving a deposition. A deposition is a requirement of discovery. Theoretically, the goal of a deposition is to give your adversary an opportunity to learn about your case in order to foster settlement. But, in reality, it’s a great opportunity for the defense attorney to start building a defense to your case. The more information you volunteer, the more you’re helping an attorney defeat your case. Always remember that a deposition is not a trial. You will have the opportunity to tell your story on your terms later on in the case at trial.
Defense attorneys come in many forms with a wide array of personalities. You may get a friendly attorney or an aggressive attorney, or even a condescending attorney asking questions about you. Staying calm will allow you to focus on your answers. Also, it will let the defense attorney know that you will be a good witness on your own behalf and are unlikely to get rattled at trial.
Following these four rules will help ensure that your deposition goes smoothly.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.