Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? This phrase is one of the first phrases you will hear during your deposition. Most often, the deposition is a discovery tool used by attorneys to learn more about what you will say if the case ever went to trial, but they can be tricky. While most of the time you cannot win your deposition, you can certainly lose it if you do not follow some simple rules. Here are several tips to make sure you are a great witness in your personal injury case.
Be Prepared. You do not need to study your medical records or reports from expert witnesses, but you need to at least have a sense as to what you are going to talk about. It is necessary for your attorney to properly educate you about what to expect, so make sure you both are on the same page.
Don’t be (too) Nervous. In the end, it is unlikely anything you say or do will destroy your case. There are very rare times where your testimony will ruin your claim, so take a deep breath. Every deponent will make a mistake, but it is rarely the end of the world.
Tell the Truth. This one should be obvious since you took an oath under penalty of perjury. Lying is the easiest way to find yourself out of a case. Attorneys often know much more in advance of the deposition than they let on. They might ask you simple questions to see how you respond. If you lie, they may (or will) know about it.
Be Nice. One of the best reasons to take a deposition is to see how the witness will present in front of a jury. If you come across as nice and like a well put together person, it adds value to the case as the insurance company knows the jury will like you.
Be Confident in Your Answers. I don’t know is an appropriate answer in many situations during a deposition (see the next tip!), but if you evade too many questions you come across as if you are hiding information. The jury sees you that way, too.
Do Not Guess. A lawyer will ask for specific information and try to pin you down as best as possible. Guessing without proper foundation is asking for trouble. If you change your story you look like a liar, and if you keep your guess, they may use it against you. I don’t know is a perfectly acceptable answer as long as it is used appropriately.
Watch for Objections. Objections in a discovery deposition are not very common because most topics are discoverable. Attorneys are not typically allowed to speak long sentences explaining things during the deposition during an objection either. If your attorney objects to a question, be very careful with your answer. The objection may have been a warning for you.
Always Finish Your Answer. If an attorney asks you a question and gets an answer they like, they will try to move on quickly. If there is more to the story, do not be afraid to stick up for yourself and ask the attorney for an opportunity to clarify. Finishing your answer and clarifying your testimony will allow you to protect yourself from unflattering situations and remarks.
Ultimately, in preparation for a deposition, you and your attorney should always have the opportunity to speak in advance to get on the same page. You need to feel comfortable with the process, and your attorney wants to feel comfortable that you know what to expect and how to respond to certain lines of inquiry. At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS, our experienced litigators are devoted to helping you from start to finish with your personal injury claim. Feel free to call for a free case evaluation.