The deposition is probably the single scariest part of the litigation process for plaintiffs and defendants. People don’t know what to expect, often believing the other lawyer will fight and intimidate them. Our law office has helped literally thousands of clients get through their depositions. The single most important ingredient to not only surviving, but thriving during a deposition is preparation.
The following are some key things for people to know and understand when preparing for their deposition. Because our law firm only represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases, I’m approaching this from that background. However, the points listed below can be utilized in almost any setting.
Meet With Your Lawyer Way Before the Deposition Date:
It is important to sit down with your lawyer and go everything about the case. This should never be done the same day as the deposition. This must be done much earlier, usually weeks or even months before your deposition.
If for some reason you have not met with your lawyer and discussed your case with him or her yet, and your deposition is approaching, ask your lawyer to adjourn or reschedule your deposition. Depositions are routinely rescheduled so don’t be afraid to ask. That way you can have time to comfortably sit with your attorney and explain in detail the facts behind your case.
Preparation With Your Lawyer:
When you do meet with your lawyer, make sure you go over everything. This includes how the accident occurred, what the defendant(s) did to cause the accident, what witnesses were there, what happened right after the accident and the medical treatment you received following the accident. No stone should be unturned. If you have a criminal background, tell your lawyer. If you had the same injury 2 years earlier, tell your lawyer. Hold nothing back because there’s a good chance your secret may come out.
Go Over Background Information:
Most depositions start with questions about your background. Where you were born, where you went to high school, advanced education and previous jobs are almost always asked about by the other attorney. Before your deposition, write down this information on paper so you can more easily answer these basic questions when they are asked. It will help you get into a flow at the beginning and will make the entire experience easier.
Remember Medical Treatment Information:
Although depositions are not supposed to be a memory test, often it really is just that. If you were injured in an accident, chances are the lawsuit has to do with the medical treatment you received following the accident. As a result, you will be asked a lot about your medical treatment. It is important you remember every medical facility you saw and the addresses. It is also helpful to remember the names of the key doctors who have treated you.
What is probably most important here is you should know the diagnoses and tests you received following the accident, as well as the results of these tests. For example, if you received an MRI of your low back, what did the MRI show? If you received physical therapy, how long did your receive this treatment and what kind of exercises and areas of the body did the therapist focus on?
Not knowing these answers makes you sound uninformed and not concerned about your own treatment. This will hurt the value of your case.
Prior Medical Treatment:
You will also be asked about your medical history before the accident that is the subject of the lawsuit. Before the deposition, it is important you think about the various hospitals and doctors you visited before the accident and why you went there. Make sure you remember their names and addresses. Understand what injuries you were treated for. All parties to the lawsuit in just about every jurisdiction that I know of are permitted to get this information. They can order the medical records from the facilities you have seen.
Be Able to Explain How the Accident Has Affected Your Life:
This is very important. Your deposition is your chance to tell the other side of how the accident has affected your life. Discuss this with your family and friends before the deposition. Go over the activities, hobbies and other things you used to do before the accident, but are limited from participating in currently. Think of specific examples of when you could not complete a certain task or take part in a family event, and talk about this during the deposition to highlight how the accident has limited your life.
This is not a complete list. Every deposition is different. But remember, the deposition is the one time the other attorney(s) can meet you and “feel you out.” If you come across as educated about your own medical treatment, and you can articulate how the injuries from the accident have affected you, you will help your chances of achieving a better settlement or verdict amount. The best way to do this is by being prepared heading into your deposition.
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