While there are many things to avoid saying in your malpractice deposition, there are a few things that can especially damage your testimony. Defendants who are flustered by an opposing attorney’s line of questioning may be tempted to “explain” their case, giving away a potential goldmine of information that the attorney would otherwise not have been able to use.
One common method of extracting information involves handing the defendant a document and asking him to read it, opening him up to contradictions in testimony or additional questions that make the medical professional seem incompetent.
A little preparation can prevent you from falling into this trap. Here are a few tips to remember if you are presented with documents in court:
- Beware misleading information. There are many facts documented about a patient on his medical records, and you cannot possible remember every single one. However, if opposing counsel asks if you were aware the patient had an irregular heartbeat, and you respond that you did not, he may present you with documentation that disproves your testimony. The fact is that you may have been aware, but you do not remember. Always answer the question you are asked, even if the answer is “I don’t remember.”
- Do your research. Opposing counsel will have access to medical documents that could potentially harm your case, so you should be prepared to back up all of your testimony with your own medical records. Your attorney should double-check any medical documentation you signed off on to make sure it does not conflict with your testimony.
- Avoid others’ medical opinions. The more you know about your patient’s follow-up care, the more you can be asked about his continuing treatment (even if you were no longer the treating physician). In most cases, the less you say in a deposition, the better off you are, so do not attempt to corroborate or disavow another treating physician’s advice.