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Preparing For Deposition

Preparing for Deposition

If you are the victim in a Florida injury case you are what is called the "Plaintiff." Once a lawsuit is filed, the defense attorney will schedule the deposition of the Plaintiff. Many times, the victim has never been deposed before. Anxiety, nervousness and uncertainty are common and natural emotions to have. It is important that the Plaintiff meet with his or her Florida personal injury attorney to be prepared for what to expect in their deposition. However, no attorney can accurately predict exactly what to expect. Therefore, in addition to the advice given by the lawyer, several basic tips apply.


Always Be Truthful


You will be placed under oath which means that your answers are sworn to be the truth. Every word that is said during the taking of the deposition will be recorded either by video and/or by a court reporter who takes down what is said word by word. Not only is there a duty to be truthful, it is unwise to exaggerate or to lie. It will be easier to remember the truth over the course of your case. Additionally, if the defense ever finds out that you have exaggerated or have been untruthful, your prior sworn testimony will be used to discredit you with the insurance company and/or the jury and/or the Judge. Unlike in school and the educational arena where one was pressured to have an answer, it is okay to answer "I don't know," "I don't remember," or similar responses if those are truthful.


It is also very important to remember that during the course of a deposition in a Florida personal injury case that you are being evaluated by those in the room such as the defense lawyer and by those who are not present. The insurance company, the Defendant and others involved in the case will be reviewing the transcript of your testimony. For these reasons, it is not only important that you be truthful, it is important that you be polite and keep a good attitude. The attorney taking your deposition will be paying close attention to your demeanor and how you react to their line of questioning. If they are able to fluster you or "rattle" you then they will remember such to utilize such at trial when you are being evaluated by a jury. 


It is important that you dress nicely. However, if you are taking time off in the middle of a work day, a uniform or work clothes are perfectly acceptable. Hygiene is also important. You want to be taken seriously in your injury claim and you don't want to look like you are "needy." This might give the impression that you would be willing to accept a settlement offer in your case less than its true value. Therefore, cleaned and pressed clothes are mandatory.


Some questions ask for answers in the form of lists. Such questions may request a list of injuries, a list of restrictions, etcetera. Try to avoid giving finite lists. For example, if the attorney asking questions wants a list of the ways your injuries have adversely affected your life, explain that you are nervous and that you might not be able to come up with a complete list of all of the ways in which your life has been adversely affected, but that you will try to give some examples. In this way, the defense lawyer will not later be able to limit what you claim to have lost. 


Give brief, truthful answers. The truth can be told often with an answer containing very few words. A truthful answer could also run on and on. In most situations, a brief answer is preferred. There are exceptions and you should ask your Florida personal injury attorney for advice on those situations in which longer answers are more appropriate and better suited.


If you need to take a break, tell the attorney asking the questions that you would like to take a few minutes. You may be asked to finish answering a specific question or line of questions, but you should be given a break whenever you need one. 


You can also take your time in responding to a question. It is wise to think about the question that is being asked before you respond. If there is no video being taken, pauses are not reflected in the written transcript. Therefore, you can take as much time as you want before you respond to a question. If there is video, you still can take your time and make sure you understand the question, compose yourself and then respond. However, long pauses can be misinterpreted as the time during which you are "creating" your answer. Pauses can be dangerous as they may give the impression that your answer was complete. If you are giving a response and happen to pause before completing your answer and the attorney moves to the next question, it is important that you immediately alert the lawyer that you were not finished giving the prior answer and then you will be given the opportunity to complete your answer.


It is not your job to understand every question or issue. If you do not understand a question, you should certainly ask the lawyer to rephrase or restate the question. You should not be embarrassed if the lawyer uses a word that you do not understand  When confronted with a word that you are not familiar with, you should not try to figure out the meaning from context, but rather ask for clarification.  You may also ask that the court reporter read back the question if you are unclear as to what was asked of you. The key is to make sure that you understand the question before you try to answer it.


Do Not Volunteer Additional Information


It is very rare that you "win" a Florida personal injury case as a result of what you say in your deposition. On the other hand, sometimes cases can be "lost" based upon additional information that is volunteered during a deposition. 


Be careful about using strong words such as "always" or "never." These type of words should be used in very limited circumstances as there are oftentimes exceptions that can be found making your statement false or an exaggeration.


Discuss with your attorney how you should handle questions about your injuries, your treatment, your recovery, how you are feeling now, etc. These are questions that will most certainly be asked in any Florida personal injury case deposition.


Many times depositions close with open-ended questions like "Is there anything else you would like to tell me?" These can be very dangerous questions. Often, the Florida attorney handling your personal injury case will instruct you to respond with something like "Not at this time." However, there may be a couple of key points that you and your lawyer wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to express. This may be the perfect platform to get that information into the record and into the mind of the defense attorney, the Defendant and the insurance company if they did not ask questions that gave you an opportunity to put those points into the record.


Defense attorneys occasionally will ask a Plaintiff how they arrived at the value or "number of dollars" they placed on their case or the amount you think your case is worth. You should discuss this question and your appropriate answer with the attorney that is representing you.


If you or a loved one sustained a personal injury and you have questions, you are welcome and encouraged to contact Florida personal injury lawyers at Lewis & Williams P.A. at 561-444-2260.

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