When filing a personal injury claim, you may be required to take part in a process called discovery. During discovery, both parties review each other’s positions, collect evidence, and question or prove the validity of a claim. As a plaintiff, you’ll need to give a deposition. This in-person interview is sworn out-of-court testimony. The court records everything that you say and do during your deposition whether or not your claim goes to trial. As such, getting ready for this formal question-and-answer session is incredibly important. While many other factors can significantly affect the outcome of your claim, your deposition alone can make or break your case. The following are seven tips to help prepare for your deposition.
1. Remember That Less Is More
There aren’t many ways to sidestep a deposition once it’s been requested. The defendant’s attorney or the attorney of the other party’s insurance company will ask a series of questions. At their most basic, these questions and their answers are intended to paint a clear picture of the event that caused your injuries. Even very minor details and seemingly unimportant statements may be cause for determining that the other party wasn’t at fault, or was only partially at fault for the event in question. Thus, you always want to keep your answers limited. The fewer details that you provide; the less ammunition you’ll be giving to the opposing party.
You may be tempted to tell your side of the story, share your frustration or grief, or contradict opposing statements that have already been made. However, doing any of these things during your deposition isn’t going to benefit you.
2. Don’t Go to Your Deposition Alone
Obtaining a successful outcome for your personal injury claim is important. Depending upon the nature and magnitude of the damages you’ve sustained, your accident may have resulted in:
- Missed time at work
- Missed professional opportunities
- High medical bills
- Physical therapy fees
- An inability to continue working in your chosen profession
- Disfiguring or debilitating injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder or other forms of trauma-related anxiety and many other losses.
All of these things come at a cost. This is but one of countless reasons to never go to a deposition alone. Always bring a seasoned personal injury attorney with you. Your attorney can advise you on which questions to answer and which to refuse. This professional can even object when the line of questioning proves irrelevant or unnecessarily intrusive. Without this help, you’ll be vulnerable to all of the tactics that insurance companies and attorneys commonly use to undermine the legitimate claims of injured parties.
3. Come Well-Rested, Well-Dressed, and Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forward
Recognizing the weight that a deposition carries could keep you up at night. However, on the night before this interview, you should go to bed early so that you can wake up feeling clear-headed and refreshed. Eat a light breakfast, and try engaging in a few stress management activities to clear your mind. These can be as simple as practicing yoga, meditating, or even doing deep, diaphragmatic breathing while relaxing in a quiet space.
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It’s also important to dress professionally. Although the statements that you make will have the greatest bearing on your claim, the other party will also be watching to see if you’re likable, if you present yourself well, if you appear genuine and trustworthy, and if you have a respectable temperament. Arriving under-slept, under-dressed for the occasion, and downright irritable can all work against you.
4. Know What to Expect
They ask questions about your accident, your medical background, and your personal background. You’ll also be asked to detail the injuries that your accident has caused, and the types of medical care you’ve received for them. Keep your answers short, succinct, and purely factual. If you’re working with a chiropractor, naturopath, or another alternative medicine practitioner, make sure that you understand the therapies provided, their expected duration, and their expected outcome.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say That You Don’t Know
For all of your diligent preparation, you’re bound to be asked a question or two that you simply cannot answer. This is okay. You have the right to tell the other party that you don’t know, and you also have the right to refuse questions. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to a question is far better than guessing or speculating. It will help you avoid giving conflicting information, and it will ensure that you never present yourself as untrustworthy.
6. Keep Your Facts Straight During Your Deposition
Brush up on all the key details of your accident before attending your deposition. When asked about these details, keep your answers consistent. For instance, if you’ve submitted a personal injury claim due to a car or truck accident, you may be asked about your driving speed at the time of the event. Have one answer to this question, and continue to supply it both at your deposition and your trial. You don’t want to go on record as providing conflicting answers concerning critical details. If you do, you may be seen as having an unreliable memory, or as having perjured yourself.
7. Expect Questions That Aren’t Directly Related to Your Accident
Expect questioning about things that don’t directly relate to your accident or injury. Questions about your lifestyle, life habits, and past may prove that your current pain and suffering is the result of pre-existing injuries or conditions, or other life factors and events. By keeping your answers brief and concise, and by deferring to your attorney as needed, you can avoid making statements that jeopardize your settlement.
Prepare for Your Deposition
Although giving a deposition can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be. By limiting your responses and sharing only absolutely necessary details, you can make it through this process error-free. Having a seasoned personal injury attorney on your team will limit your stress and give you the benefit of sound guidance every step of the way.