I’m having my deposition taken, now what?

If you are involved a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit, chances are that you will eventually be required to have your deposition taken by the opposing party’s lawyer. Depositions can be very stressful and intimidating events for clients. This is not by accident.  Depositions are often used to “freeze” testimony, to “box” a witness in so that when that witness appears at trial he/she cannot deviate from the truth (or at least the first version of his/her story).   When you arrive at the deposition, you will be sworn in by a stenographer / court reporter who will record everything that is said.

Depositions can last a few hours or can take days depending on the case. They usually start by asking about your vital statistics and who you live with, the extent of your education, your current and past employment history. They will ask you if you have had criminal convictions: a felony in the last ten years or a misdemeanor in last five years and whether you have ever been to a deposition before, whether you have been a witness in court before, whether you have made worker’s compensation or bodily injury claims before and whether you have sued anyone before or whether you have been sued prior to this claim or subsequent to it.

Then they usually go into a search for pre-existing conditions. They do this by asking about all prior hospitalizations and surgeries before the accident in question and subsequent to the accident in question.  They hoped to find that you have treated before the accident for a similar accident or for a similar injury so they can try to allege that you had the problem all along, and that this accident did not really change your pre-existing problems and at best it may have merely only temporarily aggravated them.

Below are some simple tips or guidelines to follow when you are preparing to have your deposition taken:

General Rules / Tips for Your Deposition

  1. Do not guess. Guesses are almost always wrong.
  2. If you don’t know or don’t remember, say so.  You don’t need an answer for everything!
  3. If you want to take a break, do so at any time. It is not an endurance contest and you should feel as comfortable as you can.
  4. Listen to the question that is asked before answering. Answer only the question that is asked.
  5. If you can answer Yes or No, do so.
  6. Do not guess (yes, this is also No. 1 but it is worth repeating).
  7. Take the deposition seriously.
  8. Do not answer a question unless you understand it!  You can ask the lawyer to rephrase a question if you do not understand.
  9. You do not need an answer for everything, it is ok to answer: “I don’t recall” or “I don’t know.”
  10. Do not over-exaggerate, but do not be afraid to talk about how your injuries have affected your life.
  11. Keep in mind that medical records often go back thirty-five (35) years. The same with Accident Reports, the same with Workers Comp, Health Insurance claims and Lawsuits.  So, all prior incidents and claims are pretty much able to be obtained by the other side.
  12. You cannot hide what is on the record. If you posted a picture of yourself skydiving on facebook, chances are, opposing counsel has seen it.
  13. Re: Medical Histories:  If a doctor writes down that you said something, it appears to be true even if it is not accurate.  That is why I recommend that clients review their medical records. Read them and re-read them again. This is your case.  You will get out of it what you put into it.  If there is a problem with something on the record, tell your lawyer.
  14. If you made a mistake or error on any: interrogatory, P.I.P. form, medical history to a doctor, statement and/or on your accident report, point it out to your lawyer before the deposition so he/she can clear it up on the record during the deposition.
  15. Answers such as: “I must have,” or “probably,” are not good answers if you really meant to say yes or no.

 Curran & Desharnais, P.C. Call toll free at 888-682-9194 or by email jkcurran@cdlawpartners.com, with questions.

Personal Injury

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