Personal Injury Deposition Tips For Claimants
With any personal injury case in Massachusetts that goes into litigation, depositions are usually necessary. Basically, a deposition is a formal, recorded interview with the lawyer hired by the insurance company. Your Boston personal injury attorney can also take a deposition of anyone he chooses. If you have an upcoming deposition, regardless if your case involves a car accident, pedestrian accident, wrongful death, etc., here are some instructions we give to our clients prior to their deposition, so that they are fully prepared.
THE CARDINAL RULES
- Always, always tell the truth.
- Pause before you answer any question and think very carefully.
- If you do not understand a question, say so.
- Answer only the question that you are asked.
- If the question is inarticulate or the questioner appears confused, do not rephrase the question.
- Testify only about what you actually remember.
- Never guess or speculate.
- Do not explain the logic that you used in formulating your answer.
- If you are testifying about a conversation, make it clear if you are quoting directly or if you are only giving a summary of what was said.
- If asked to testify about a lengthy transaction or meeting, do not get bogged down in details.
- Do not testify about what others know or thought about a given matter, you are only speculating when you do so.
- Do not volunteer information about your state of mind.
- If you cannot recall something, say, I can’t remember.
- When you have answered the question asked, STOP!
DEALING WITH DOCUMENTS
- If you are asked a question about a document, read the document before answering the question.
- If information or data required to answer a question is in a document that is already an exhibit, ask to see the exhibit.
- If the information required to answer a question is in a document that is not an exhibit and you do not recall the answer to the question, do not inform the examiner about the existence of the document. Say that you cannot recall.
DEALING WITH THE OTHER ATTORNEY
- Avoid developing a conversational relationship with the questioner.
- Face the stenographer when answering questions to make sure the stenographer properly records your answer and to break eye contact with the questioner.
- Take your time and give your attorney time to object.
- Be wary of the introductory clauses that precede the questions.
- Be suspicious of any question that attempts to summarize your prior testimony.
- Be wary of attempts by the questioner to lead you or to put your thoughts in his or her words.
- If the questioner interrupts your answer, indicate that you have not completed answering the question and state that you desire to do so.
- The questioner will establish facts and bring out matters that may be damaging to your case but don’t let it faze you.
- Every witness makes mistakes at a deposition. If the questioner raises an inconsistency with you, stay calm and answer the question.
- Never use obscenities or make ethnic or gender‑based comments. Your deposition may later be read to men and women of various races, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
- No statement you make at your deposition will be off the record unless the attorneys agree to that prior to your testimony.
- No statement you make at a deposition can be stricken from the transcript.
- Avoid making attempts at humor.
- Never get angry or argue with the questioner.
INTERACTING WITH YOUR ATTORNEY
- Follow your counsel to a place where you will be able to confer at each recess.
- If you need a break, take one. Confer with your counsel whenever you desire to do so.
- If you remember something suddenly at your deposition that you have not previously discussed with your lawyer, do not volunteer it at the deposition. Hold the matter until you have had an opportunity to speak with your counsel at a recess. Ask for a recess if necessary.
- Listening to your counsels objection to a question will often be instructive as to problem areas raised by the question.
- Never agree to supply documents or information to the examiner. Let your attorney respond to any such request.