You recently filed a lawsuit, and you are now being informed that your “deposition” has been scheduled. You may be wondering, what is a deposition? What type of questions will I be asked and how should I answer?
In legal terms, a deposition is the giving of a statement under oath. Put simply, you are asked questions relevant to your case to which you must provide honest and complete answers. During your deposition, you will be accompanied by your attorney, the opposing counsel, a court reporter, and, sometimes, a videographer.
Fortunately, the questions asked during your deposition are, for the most part, standard, and your attorney should be able to prepare you for what’s to come. It is important to note, however, that this is the one opportunity for the opposing counsel to personally sit down with you and ask you questions. With that said, you should expect some of those questions to be greatly detailed.
For instance, you may be asked to briefly explain how the accident happened, as well as whether your vehicle/body moved after impact, whether your vehicle left skid marks, whether you saw the accident coming, your attempts to prevent the accident, etc. If you are claiming damages for injuries, then you should also expect the opposing attorney to delve into not only your current symptoms but also your medical history- prior doctors, medical conditions, and treatments.
Similarly, if you are claiming lost wages and/or loss of future earning capacity, then expect to be questioned regarding past, current, and future education and employment, including dates, rates of pay, and job responsibilities.
This brings us to your next question: How should I answer? Preparation methods vary with each attorney, but at the Personal Injury Law Office of Chelsie M. Lamie, P.A., we inform our clients that there are at least five important rules that you should remember for your deposition:
1. Always, always, always tell the truth. This means that you should not exaggerate your symptoms or physical limitations. Many clients are frustrated (understandably) by not being able to physically or mentally do what they could before the accident. If asked what their daily post-accident activities include, they may wish to testify that they barely move from the couch or bed anymore and cannot “go out” or perform simple household chores. As much as we understand that such an answer may accurately described how you feel in response to your current physical limitations, that answer is translated to mean that you are essentially immobile and confined to your residence. If surveillance (yes, there may be surveillance) shows you so much as taking out the trash or walking your dog, you have likely made a false statement under oath that can be used against you and can severely damage your case.
2. Provide complete and accurate answers regarding your past medical history. Previous injuries, accidents, and treatment are subjects that people tend to forget. If you do not recall the exact date of an event, state that you do not recall the exact date of that event. A deposition is not a test or quiz where you pass or fail based on your ability to remember exact dates related to past treatment. However, you can “fail” in a sense by intentionally not providing any information concerning a past accident or injury. Bottom line: provide answers that are accurate and to the best of your recollection and state that those answers are to the best of your recollection.
3. Do not guess. In other words, if you make an estimate, be clear that it is only an estimate. Never state facts beyond your knowledge; do not guess at what the answer to a question might be. If you do not know the answer, it is perfectly acceptable to testify, “I don’t know.” Leave the answer at that.
4. Never talk about anything that was discussed with your attorney. This includes discussions with your attorney’s paralegal or even the law firm receptionist. This information is privileged, and the opposing party is not allowed to know it. In some situations, the only way you can answer a question is to divulge what your attorney may have told you. In these your attorney should intervene with an appropriate objection.
5. Answer only the question that is asked of you. It is our natural inclination to fill silence; however, that silence may be purposeful on the part of the opposing counsel. It is your job to answer only the question asked of you. Do not volunteer extra information.
Lastly, although it may seem silly to have your outfit be of concern, how you show up to your deposition is important. Your attorney may recommend that you appear “business casual” or wear your “Sunday best.” It is important to remember that the opposing attorney is not just listening to the answers you provide to her questions, she is also evaluating how you would present as a witness should your case go to trial.
Attorney Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury attorney located in Safety Harbor, Florida. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, please call 727-501-3464 for a free consultation. You can also learn more about Attorney Lamie at www.chelsielamie.com