You’ve been told how important it is to stay calm in your deposition sessions, but it’s almost impossible for you to follow that advice. So much is riding on what you say, and you’ve never been in this situation before. How can you be sure not to make a mistake that will cost you for the rest of your life?
5 Mistakes to Avoid As You Prepare for a Personal Injury Deposition
Unfortunately, many people in this situation let their nervousness get the best of them. They just want to get the deposition over with—answering questions quickly, and trusting that the judge and jury will believe them when it is time to go to trial. While there are many mistakes that you could make during your deposition, the biggest blunders are quite easy to avoid. For instance:
- The knee-jerk response. At the beginning of your deposition, you will be asked simple identifying questions such as your name, address, date of birth. However, the questions may change from simple to complex without warning, prompting many deponents to confidently give inaccurate answers. An example: the attorney follows “how long have you worked at your company?” with “are you a good employee?” The first question asks for a fact; the latter asks for your opinion.
- Assuming. Attorneys have likely taken hundreds of depositions before yours, and may use language you are unfamiliar with. For example, if an attorney asks if your pain is intermittent, and you say yes, he may ask about the periods when you are not in pain. (Many people assume that “intermittent” means “constant,” but it actually means “every so often.”) If you’re not 100% sure what an attorney is asking you, always say that you do not understand, and they will have to restate their question in natural language.
- Exaggerating. Taking the stand may feel a bit like going on stage: everyone is waiting to hear what you have to say, and your testimony is like a performance. It is important to stick to only the facts when giving a response. Questions such as, “How much pain are you in?” are not possible to answer with facts, and will likely evoke an emotional response, such as, “The most pain I have ever felt in my life.” Once you have said this, the attorney may attempt to disprove your testimony, making you seem untrustworthy.
- Approximating. One of the worst mistake deponents make is guessing at answers to deposition questions. If you are asked a question about an event and you do not know or do not remember, say so. If you are asked to approximate, estimate, or guess at an answer, refuse.
- Taking an attorney’s word. It is up to the attorney to collect documents that back up his line of questioning, so if you are asked a factual question that can be proved on paper (such as in your medical records), ask to see the document before responding. It is important to remember that the attorney taking your deposition is not asking questions because he does not know the answers. In most cases, he knows the answer to every question asked of you; his goal is to find out how you will respond.