How to Handle Your Discovery Deposition
The discovery deposition is one of the most important stages in the litigation of a personal injury lawsuit. It is during the discovery deposition that the insurance company’s lawyer gets the opportunity to question the accident victim in person about the accident and the injuries suffered. Similarly, at the defendant’s deposition, your lawyer is able to discover much about the insurance company’s version of the accident. A sample list of deposition questions was presented on p.24. Success on deposition day vastly improves the chance of a prompt and fair settlement.
The discovery deposition gives the attorney the chance to pick the mind of the individual who is being deposed. Depositions are usually held in the office of one of the lawyers. The testimony is taken under oath and is recorded by a stenographer. Thus, extreme care must be taken to accurately describe the accident and resulting injuries. By confronting an individual at trial with clearly erroneous deposition testimony, an attorney can devastate that individual’s credibility in the eyes of the judge, jury, or arbitration panel. That is why thorough preparation prior to deposition day is a necessity.
Telling the Truth
Perhaps the most important advice your lawyer can give you during preparation for the deposition is to tell the truth. Even the craftiest lawyer has trouble tripping up an individual who speaks the truth and sticks to it. Clients sometimes think they can outsmart the other lawyer by bending the truth in their favor. More often than not, the other lawyer can figure out when this is happening and can expose the lie. An otherwise meritorious case can be lost by a small lie. Juries, judges, and arbitration panels have no sympathy for liars, even injured ones.
It is also vital not to guess during a deposition. Frequently the other lawyer asks questions to which the witness simply does not have the answer. It is important to remember that a deposition is not a multiple choice test. You do not score points by occasionally guessing correctly. Stick to the facts and testify only to that which you personally know.
Every trial lawyer has seen his or her client’s case reduced in value by an incorrect guess. I do not know is a fair answer if it is true. The time spent preparing for the deposition will ensure that the witness does not have to rely on this answer too often. I do not remember is also fair if you truly do not remember. Sometimes depositions are taken years after the accident. It is nearly impossible to recall the minute details attorneys routinely seek during a deposition. Again, preparation will minimize the need to rely on this answer. It is far better to admit that you do not know the answer to a question or that you do not recall the answer, than to venture a guess.