How To Give A Deposition In A Personal Injury Case
When you file a personal injury lawsuit, most insurance companies will not settle with you until after one of their lawyers has taken your deposition. The reason that they do this is because they want to size you up as a plaintiff and determine whether they think that you have a credible injury case or not. This is a very important part of your case and you should give it some thought before you walk in the door to testify.
Deposition Testimony Does Not Come Naturally
No one knows your case better than you. However, it is sometimes hard to translate what you are going through into deposition testimony. This is where having a personal injury attorney on your case can help. Before your deposition, you should have a conversation with your attorney about what they believe the major issues in your deposition are going to be.
Sometimes you may be worried about something that is not really an issue in the case leaving yourself unprepared for what the real issues are. The first thing you will need to be aware of when giving your deposition is that the court reporter is taking a record of everything that is being said. It can be intimidating knowing that everything that is being said is typed up, but don’t forget to be a person when you give testimony.
There is nothing to be afraid of, including saying the wrong thing. If your testimony comes from the heart and is the reality that you face everyday, then no one can challenge you on it. Further, the truth can never be a wrong answer. If you are truthful, then they can’t challenge that either.
When giving a deposition, I tell my clients to forget that there is a court reporter and just have a conversation with the defense attorney about how your life is different after becoming injured.
Think Of A Deposition As A Conversation With The Insurance Adjuster
Contrary to what most videos say about giving a deposition, if you want to get real value out of your case then you will have to treat your deposition as a conversation with the insurance adjuster (done through their attorney and the transcript). In most cases, the insurance adjuster has never spoken to the claimant and has only received medical records along with a “demand letter” from your attorney that outlines your case.
The deposition is your chance to shine. If all of your deposition answers are “yes,” “no,” and “I don’t recall,” then the adjuster won’t think that much of your case. The value of your case comes with connecting to the adjuster because if you can connect with the adjuster, then you can certainly connect with a jury who will award you damages.
Likewise, if you have trouble connecting to the adjuster or the adjuster can’t understand what your damages are, then the adjuster will have doubts that you can convince a jury that your case has value.
The Defense Attorney Writes A Report About You
The defense attorney taking your deposition will also form opinions of you and whether they believe that you can present a convincing injury case to a jury. After every deposition, the defense attorney writes a report for the insurance company’s file that talks about the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s attorney, and what they think of both.
Of course you will never see a copy of that report, but you can imagine that a defense attorney who tells the insurance company that the plaintiff presents well and is convincing will get offered more money on their case (assuming all other factors are the same) than someone who isn’t convincing. A good defense attorney will want to learn as much as possible about you as the plaintiff in order to size you up, however, you should not fear an attorney who is complete.
Instead, I get concerned when a defense attorney takes an incomplete deposition of the plaintiff and does not try to understand what the real issues are. Those defense attorneys are usually the ones who write lackluster reports to the insurance adjusters and your case fails to get noticed because of it. On the other hand, if a good defense attorney who has taken a complete deposition and written a complete report, then you are more likely to receive the maximum offer that can be justified on your case and then it is up to you whether you agree or disagree with the insurance company’s evaluation (which is a purely financial decision).
When deciding whether to settle your case or take it to trial, the best information that you can possibly have is the insurance company’s best offer (a lowball offer on your case is really not fair if anyone expects to make an educated decision on whether to settle or go to trial).
How You Say It Matters A Lot
You have probably heard the expression that it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it. This is very important to remember when giving a deposition. People who sit at a deposition and choose their words very carefully are perceived as unsure of themselves or untruthful. On the other hand, people who are confident about their answers are perceived as persuasive.
When you are giving your testimony in a real courtroom, there will be a panel of 6 strangers (plus an alternate) watching your every move. Those people are watching all of your nonverbal cues in addition to listening to what you say. Do you maintain eye contact or look away? Do you take a long time to formulate an answer? Do you look like you know what you’re talking about? As discussed above, no one knows your case like you do, so why not show it? In your case, you are the star of the show.
The jury may listen to your attorney but they are really watching you. Likewise, when you give a deposition, the defense attorney is watching for all of the same things that a jury is going to look for should your case go that far. This is why you can’t be scared-you just have to relax and be yourself.
You Don’t Get Credit For It Unless You Say It On The Record
Finally, you need to keep in mind what you are doing when giving a deposition. The defense attorney is asking the questions and the court reporter is taking down both the questions and the answers. Therefore, if you want the insurance company adjuster to understand what it is you are going through, then you must say it for the record.
Many of the “how to give a deposition” sources will tell you not to volunteer information. While that may be true in some cases (particularly cases where someone is claiming you did something wrong), the plaintiff in a personal injury case must be honest and forthcoming with their answers in order to be persuasive.
A lot of “I don’t know’s” and “I don’t remember’s” says in between the lines that your injury isn’t affecting your life that much. Compare that with someone who is acutely aware of their injury at all times and has no problem talking about what hurts and how it hurts. If you’re not sure that your neck, back, shoulder, or any body parts hurt, then you cannot expect the insurance company or a jury to be convinced and give you money for it.
The value in your injury case comes down to impact on your life that your injury has.
Call A Lakeland Personal Injury Attorney For Help On Your Case
If you sustained an injury from a personal injury or car accident, please contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney to discuss your case for free. If you want to win your case, you should get the best legal help that you can find. We are here to help you with your case in Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, and Haines City, Florida.