The greatest fear expressed by clients before their depositions is the worry that they will not remember enough and that they will ruin their case. Your deposition is not a proceeding that will determine the outcome of your case. You must, however, handle your deposition properly to prevent you from making mistakes that can ruin your case. A good deposition will move your case closer to a fair resolution.
Your attorney should spend as much time with you as necessary well before the deposition to answer your questions, instruct you in how the deposition is conducted, and explain how to answer questions that focus on the important issues in your case. The following is a basic list of rules that your attorney should review with you before your deposition:
- Tell the truth.
- Answer questions as directly as possible, without rambling or explaining. If you can answer a question with a "yes" or "no", give that answer and stop talking. I cannot overstate how important it is to limit your answers to the specific questions asked. (There is one exception to this rule...which we'll get to soon).
- Don't guess. You may give an estimate, if you have one, as to dates, distances, times, frequency of events and speeds, but NO GUESSING!
- If you do not understand a question, it is ok to ask for the question to be repeated, rephrased or clarified. It is the other attorney's duty to ask clear and understandable questions.
- Do not exaggerate your injuries. Avoid saying you "cant't" do things like lifting. It is better to say you have "trouble" or "experience pain" when you do things. Using absolutes like "can't" or "never" can cause problems when they are not strictly accurate.
- Ask for a break anytime you feel yourself getting tired or even a little confused. You may be anxious to get the deposition over with, but you must not try to get it done at the expense of doing the best job you can. Ask for a break anytime you want to discuss an issue with your attorney.
- Follow your attorney's advice if he instructs you not to answer a question.
- It's oaky if you don't recall the answers to some questions. Nobody recalls every fact. You will not harm your case if you do not recall something. You will harm your case if you make up answers to questions in a misquided effort to be helpful or because you believe you must come up with an answer for every question asked of you.
There are many more important rules that your attorney should review with you prior to your deposition. The exception to rule 2, above, is when you are asked how the accident and your injuries have affected your life. This is one of the most important issues in any claim. It calls upon you to discuss more than just what body parts were injured or use meaningless adjectives to describe how much pain you felt. How an injury affects a person in his or her ability to engage in activities of daily living, at work and at home, makes a bodily injury claim personal. Being able to talk about specific details of how you had to adapt to learn to live with your injuries, how your injuries affected your personal relationships, your goals and life plans has tremendous power. This creates testimony with impact that can be very persuasive to juries. It is vital that you are able to communicate this information in your deposition.