Depositions in Personal Injury Cases

By Nicholas Strom

Personal injury litigation can be complex, and involves reviewing medical records, coordinating with opposing counsel, understanding medical terminology in addition to other procedural and substantive issues. Most of this is handled by attorneys and legal professionals with the assistance of their clients. However, one critical piece of personal injury litigation involves the direct questioning of the client: the deposition.

A deposition is the insurance company’s opportunity to ask the injured person questions related to how the accident happened, questions about medical treatment and how the accident affected his or her life. If litigation has started, the injured party will almost certainly have to sit for a deposition. Many people are nervous about the deposition, which is natural, but there is no reason to be nervous. It is important to remember that a deposition is simply answering questions asked by opposing counsel.

In a deposition, there are typically four parties. The injured party who answers the questions, the injured party’s lawyer who is there to help the injured party, the insurance company’s attorney who asks the questions, and a court reporter who is tasked with taking down everything that is said in the deposition. Traditionally, depositions are done in person at one of the attorney’s offices. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic many depositions take place remotely via platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

The most important thing to remember while sitting for a deposition is to answer questions honestly. This cannot be emphasized enough. If an injured party answers dishonestly, the insurance company’s counsel will use that against the injured party and it will severely hurt the case.

Of course, it is possible you misremember something or cannot remember something. That is understandable. No one expects you to be infallible with total recall of every incident in your life. What is asked is that you do your best to answer honestly. That’s it. If later in your deposition, you remember you made a mistake or misspoke, you can always correct yourself.

There are other things to keep in mind in your deposition. While a deposition does not take place before a judge or a jury, it is still important how you present yourself. For that reason, you should dress as you would for an important business meeting or a job interview – neatly, well-groomed and well dressed. After hearing the question, pause before you answer.  Think of the answer in your mind, not out loud.  If you do not understand or do not hear a question, say so. The insurance company’s attorney will repeat or rephrase the question for you. Answer the question being asked, not something else. Too often, deponents will go on a tangent and not answer the question being asked, which only increases the length of the deposition. If you have to give an approximation, say so. For instance, if you are asked how far another vehicle was from you and you do not know the exact distance, you could explain it was approximately one car length away from you. Opposing counsel may ask some clarifying questions, but this type of approximation is fine.

There is more to a deposition than is explained here. Your attorney and legal team can answer any questions you have about the process. You should always feel free to reach out to your attorney with questions, not only about depositions but about the entire litigation process.