Deposition Preparation: What Will The Defense Attorney Ask You?
If you have been put on notice that your deposition has been scheduled, hopefully you have already read my paper entitled Deposition Basics – How to Give a Great Deposition. If you haven’t, I encourage you to click on that article and read that one too. The purpose of this paper is to give you a good understanding of what types of questions to expect from the defense attorney.
While every defense attorney has a different style and different approach, almost all of them follow the same general outline in a deposition. Below is a typical outline pertaining to a car wreck case but which can easily be adapted to a slip and fall case.
WHO WILL BE THERE?
As a matter of courtesy, Plaintiff’s depositions are usually taken at the office of Plaintiff’s attorney. At least it is a place that should be familiar to you as the Plaintiff and that should make you a little more comfortable. It will be usually be conducted in your attorney’s conference room. Your attorney will be right there beside you during the entire deposition. Also in attendance will be the defense attorney and a court reporter. Occasionally, the adjuster for the insurance company will be in attendance also.
WHO WILL SPEAK?
This is your show, your time to shine, and your opportunity to put a face to your case. The defense attorney will be asking you questions and you will have as much time as needed to answer. Understand that this is the defense attorney’s only opportunity to talk to you. Unlike your attorney, she cannot pick up the phone and call you any time she has a question. Do not expect your attorney to speak unless it is to voice an objection or an instruction to you.
SOME DO’S AND DON’T’S:
DRESS: Do pay attention to how you dress. You don’t have to wear a coat and tie or a formal evening dress. However, stay away from T-shirts and jeans. Remember, the attorney wants to see what kind of witness you will be and this includes not only what you say but how you look.
SOCIAL MEDIA: DO NOT post anything about your case on Facebook, etc. This is true from the day of the accident until after your case has been resolved. A good defense attorney will check Facebook a day before and a few minutes before the deposition starts to see what’s on your mind. If you have posted anything about this deposition, including how ugly the defense attorney is, how much you resent having to attend, or anything else about the deposition, you will be thoroughly embarrassed when this gets read into the record.
PROMPTNESS: Your attorney has probably asked you to be in his office an hour or so before the start of the deposition so he can prepare you. DO NOT BE LATE. You will need all of the time he has allotted to get well prepared and to get in the proper mindset. Being late deprives you and your attorney of valuable time and shows your attorney that you are not taking this seriously.
MIND YOUR P’S AND Q’S: Remember to treat everyone in the deposition room, especially the defense attorney, with respect. Be polite, but don’t say “sir” or “Ma’am” in every answer as this gets annoying after a while. Do not talk over the defense attorney. Let him finish his question before you begin your answer so that the court reporter can accurately record each question and answer. Shut your phone off, put it away, and pay attention.
DON’T BE CHATTY: The defense attorney is not there for a coffee klatch. Both he and your own attorney have other appointments that day. And while you don’t have to answer like a robot, try to just answer the question and leave the commentary and side chats for a social occasion. If you stray off topic too much, not only will you be prolonging the deposition but you may also say something that is harmful to your case.
Now, let’s get on to the questions.
HAVE YOU MET WITH YOUR ATTORNEY TO PREPARE FOR YOUR DEPOSITION? – Of course you have. I always tell my clients – there are no secrets. You should never have to wonder if it is ok for you to answer truthfully. The defense attorney knows your attorney has prepared you. At the Law Offices of Robert Rodriguez, we always emphasize this to each client – you can answer every question truthfully. If your attorney objects to a question, then and only then will you be instructed not to answer. Along with this question, defense attorneys always ask if you have ever had a deposition taken before. This is a totally irrelevant question but they always ask it and I don’t have a problem with my clients answering it. Finally, the defense attorney will usually take this opportunity to ask you if your attorney has explained to you that your testimony has the same weight and importance as testifying in front of a judge and jury. She will then remind you that lying in your deposition constitutes criminal perjury.
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS: The attorney usually will then explain some basic instructions designed to make a better record. He will instruct you not to answer a question if you do not understand it. Instead, ask him to explain it or to re-phrase it. He will ask that you let him finish his question before you begin your answer. Finally, he will ask that your “yes” or “no” answers be said out loud instead of with a nod or a shake of the head.
ABILITY TO GIVE TESTIMONY – She will ask if there is any reason you cannot give reliable testimony today, such as because you are on medication or because of a medical condition? The answer should always be “no” unless there are some truly special circumstances in your situation that require explaining that you may have limitations in answering questions. Both attorneys should be aware of this before the deposition begins.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU QUESTIONS:
PERSONAL BACKGROUND QUESTIONS – You will be asked your date of birth, place of birth, extent of your education, military background, your address, how long you’ve been at your current address, prior addresses, driver’s license number, marriages, children, and employment history.
GETTING TO KNOW THE CASE QUESTIONS:
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ACCIDENT – You will be asked the date, time, and place of the accident, the road/street information, speed limit, number of lanes, witness names, your familiarity with this location, your destination, your starting point, the reason for your trip, the make and model vehicle you were driving, your speed, when and how you first became aware that you were about to have an accident, whether you applied your brakes, what part of defendant’s vehicle hit what part of your vehicle, defendant’s approximate speed just before impact, where did each vehicle come to rest, what was said by each driver, and how you left the scene.
INJURIES – You will be asked what parts of the body are you claiming injury, did you hit anything inside the vehicle, were you bleeding or did you suffer any obvious injuries, what happened to your body during the accident – was the head flung forward first, backward?
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR DAMAGES:
TREATMENT – You will be asked when and where you treated, who referred you to each doctor, what each doctor told you, what was done at PT, how long each session lasted, what types of diagnostics have been done, and what the diagnostics showed?
DISABILITIES – You will be asked what kinds of things couldn’t you do, for how long, whether you are back to 100% and if not, what still bothers you, whether you are through treating and if not, what other treatment, tests, or procedures are you expecting to have?
PRIOR AND SUBSEQUENT INJURIES – You will be asked if you have been in any prior accidents and if so, when, what happened and what were your injuries and treatment. You’ll be asked the same questions as to any subsequent accidents.
LOST INCOME CLAIMS – You will be asked how long you were off work, which doctor took you off of work, how much money you are asking for in lost income, and how you got paid.
As you can see, you will not be asked any hard questions. Car wrecks aren’t rocket science. Everything you will be asked will be easy to understand and easy to answer. Trust your attorney, trust the process, and trust yourself. You will do just fine. Good luck.
Attorney, Law Offices of Robert Rodriguez