At your deposition, the insurance company’s lawyers will likely try to get you to make statements that damage your credibility and weaken your claim. However, with a little preparation, your testimony might do the opposite. Read more to learn how to survive a personal injury deposition.
What Is a Deposition?
During a deposition (also called a “depo” for short), both your San Antonio personal injury lawyer and the insurance company’s attorneys will have a chance to ask you questions about your personal injury claim under oath. These questions and your responses are either transcribed by a court reporter or video recorded. Your statements are considered evidence and might be presented to the judge or jury.
Depositions are an important part of any personal injury lawsuit. A strong, factually consistent deposition can strengthen your personal injury claim and might lead to a settlement. However, a flawed depo can undermine your credibility and devalue your claim. Defense lawyers are constantly looking for inconsistencies and ulterior motives in personal injury claims. A simple misunderstanding or misstatement might have serious ramifications.
1. Don’t Misstate the Facts or Exaggerate.
After a serious accident, you could be in a lot of physical and emotional pain. You may also have limited memories of the incident. While you might feel tempted to overstate your symptoms and the facts surrounding your accident, it’s never a good idea. When you exaggerate or are dishonest, the defense lawyer and the insurance company will use these statements against you during settlement negotiations and in court.
Other times, you might not want to admit facts that seem embarrassing or damaging (such as a history of substance abuse). Even if you think an answer will not portray you in the best light, be honest. You will hurt your case if you are evasive or untruthful. And if you have concerns about tough questions or difficult topics, discuss them in advance with your San Antonio personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer might have suggestions or strategies that will help you frame your testimony.
2. Make Sure You’re Well-Prepared
During your deposition, the insurance company’s lawyer will pepper you with questions about your accident, injuries, and damages. If you’re not well-prepared, you can easily make mistakes or become defensive. You should expect questions about:
- Physical and emotional injuries
- Pre-existing conditions and past medical treatment
- The severity and frequency of your symptoms
- The treatment you’ve received and whether it helped
- The names of your doctors and medical providers
- The extent of your limitations and work restrictions
- How your life has changed since the accident
- Medical bills and lost income
- Your work history and level of education
Before your deposition, you should review your accident reports, medical records, notes, diaries, and other evidence that might refresh your memory.
At Crosley Law Firm, we take a hands-on approach to deposition prep. Our clients receive worksheets and checklists beforehand, helping them understand the questions they might face. We also meet with our them before the deposition, reviewing evidence, discussing tactics, and practicing testimony. Our goal is to give our clients all the tools they’ll need for a successful deposition.
3. Take Your Time When You Testify
When you testify, a few seconds of silence can feel like an eternity. Sometimes, accident victims feel like they have to provide quick answers. However, if you need time to think, take all the time you need. Your personal injury lawyer will want you to deliver thoughtful, accurate answers to every question.
4. Stay Professional and Polite
You should take your deposition seriously. Dress in clean, business casual or “church” clothing—testimony is sometimes videotaped. You should also show up on time (or early) for your deposition. If you’re late or a no-show, it could negatively impact your case.
Additionally, the defense lawyer will probably ask you personal or uncomfortable questions, trying to shake your confidence or undermine your credibility. Don’t take the bait. If you become combative or angry, the defense lawyer will use your bad behavior against you. If you need a break to calm down or compose yourself, ask for one.
If you have a personal injury lawyer, he or she will also attend your deposition. When the insurance company’s lawyer asks inappropriate or leading questions, your lawyer should object and can try to exclude this testimony at trial.
5. Keep Your Answers Short and Simple
“A deposition is not the time to tell your full story. Instead, it’s a chance for the defense lawyers to build their case against you.”
A deposition is not the time to tell your full story. Instead, it’s a chance for the defense lawyers to build their case against you. Don’t do their job for them. You should never give long, detailed answers to a defense lawyer’s questions. Give the simplest, most honest answer you can—and stop talking once you’ve answered the question. Do not offer other details or your opinions. You’ll have plenty of time for that later.
Additionally, your lawyer will have a chance to cross-examine you at the end of the deposition. Depending on your case and litigation strategy, your lawyer might try to flesh out your answers at that time.
6. Never Answer a Question You Don’t Understand
Unless you ask for clarification, the lawyers and the judge will assume that you understood the questions you are asked. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get overwhelmed during a deposition. If you need something reworded or explained, don’t hesitate to ask.
7. Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer Before Participating in a Deposition
Depositions are highly formal and technical interviews. It’s typically in your best interest to have a personal injury lawyer present with you at your depo. Lawyers are trained to assess evidence and guide people through the formal “discovery” processes of a claim.
Your lawyer can work closely with you to help you understand the process and coach you in how to respond to questions.
Crosley Law Firm Fights for San Antonio and Texas Auto Accident Victims
At Crosley Law Firm, we know that well-prepared clients give the best possible depositions. We represent personal injury victims in San Antonio and throughout Texas, and we handle a wide variety of personal injury claims. Before you speak with an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer, complete our simple, online form or call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000. We offer free consultations and a no-fee policy.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.