The 5 Rules for Depositions Related to Personal Injury Claims
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, such as in a traffic accident of any kind, your personal injury claim will be filed with the at-fault party’s insurance company. While the insurance company is paid specifically to cover your legal damages (or losses), it is also in the business of turning juicy profits, and this means that it would like to keep your settlement as low as it possibly can. One of the tools at its disposal for making this happen is trying to trip you up and get you to make statements that weaken your claim – and deposition is one mechanism it may employ towards this end. When it comes to insurance companies, this is normal stuff, and preparing yourself with the five rules for depositions related to personal injury claims can help.
What Is a Deposition
Before you start worrying about the five rules, it is important to know what a deposition is. A deposition is a meeting in which both the insurance company’s attorney and your own personal injury attorney are allowed the opportunity to ask you questions about the accident in question (and other related topics) under oath. These questions and your responses will either be turned into a transcription by the court reporter or will be recorded on video.
The outcome of your deposition serves as evidence that can be used to guide your personal injury case. In other words, anything you say during your deposition will be difficult to refute at a later date (without damaging your claim, which is what the insurance company is going for). As such, your deposition is a big deal, and knowing what to expect and how to proceed can help you protect your personal injury claim and, therefore, your ability to achieve your fullest recovery.
One: Stick to the Facts and Keep It Simple
A deposition can feel like a bombardment of questions, and many deponents (the person being deposed) feel like they are in the hot seat and as if they are being accused of something. This is a natural reaction, but you should do what you can to let it go. The insurance company is trying to get your side of the story as it relates to the accident that caused you to be injured, and it is hoping that you will say something that it can use to bolster its own position (whether this is in keeping with the meaning behind your statements or not). You have been injured by someone else’s negligence, and all of the following are likely true:
You are facing considerable medical expenses that may show no sign of slowing down.
You are facing (or have experienced) lost earnings as a result of the accident in question.
You have experienced considerable physical and emotional pain and suffering in relation to the accident in question.
In other words, you are about as vulnerable as you have ever been, and this fact is not lost on the insurance company – and it does not make facing the barrage of questions that makes up your deposition any easier. If, however, you make it your policy to take each question as it comes and to answer each as truthfully, as simply, and as concisely as you possibly can, you will be well on your way to mastering your deposition.
Now is not the time to get creative, to get chatty, or to overthink things. Do not over embellish the injuries you have suffered (which are plenty bad enough as they are), and do not fudge any answers to questions that are less than flattering to you. If you are honest, keep it simple, and remain concise, your job is done. If your attorney wants you to flesh out your answers further, he or she can make that happen when he or she questions you.
Many deponents worry about difficult topics from their past coming up at deposition and are not sure how to proceed with answering these dicey questions. For example, if you have a DUI and a stint in rehab in your past and the accident at hand involves you being injured by another driver’s negligence, you can expect the topic of your DUI and rehab to come up.
The fact is, however, that if the two have no point of connection, they have no point of connection, and your past mistakes are not responsible for the insurance company’s policyholder’s current negligence. If you are concerned about a topic that may arise during your deposition, discuss the matter with your experienced personal injury attorney, and he or she will help you frame your response.
Other Sources of Information
In addition to drilling you with questions at your deposition, the insurance company will be on the lookout for other sources of information, including:
Statements made at the scene of the accident (even a general apology may come back to haunt you)
Social media posts and pictures (you are well-advised to give social media a pass while your personal injury claim is pending)
It is not that these statements and posts are incriminating in and of themselves, but once they fall into the hands of the insurance company, they can be twisted this way and that. In the end, the less you offer the insurance company in the way of raw material, the better.
Two: Be Well Prepared
If you have a deposition scheduled, you have fair warning, and your best line of defense will be well prepared. While you may not know exactly what being well-prepared looks like or means in relation to a deposition, your personal injury attorney does, and he or she will put you through your paces prior to your deposition. Part of being prepared for a deposition is knowing what questions to expect and formulating basic responses that hit all the marks of being honest, succinct, and clear, but there is more to it than that.
The insurance company’s attorney is invested in tripping you up during the deposition process, and towards this end, he or she may attempt to rile you up. Once you become defensive, you are far more prone to say things you should not and to basically play into the insurance company’s hands. Getting in some practice ahead of time can help you become better prepared to deflect the insurance company’s efforts and to help you keep your cool throughout your deposition. Further, knowing your flashpoints or triggers can help you handle them.
Knowing what to expect is an important part of handling your deposition, and you can expect questions that focus on all of the following:
The physical and emotional injuries you have endured – and their severity and frequency
The expenses and lost earnings you have experienced as a result of the accident
Your work history and level of education
The medical treatments you have received for your current injuries and the efficacy of these treatments
The names of your doctors and other medical providers
Any pre-existing medical conditions and/or past medical treatments on your medical record
The extent of your accident-related physical limitations and work restrictions as they relate to the accident in question
How the accident has affected your life overall
The answers to these questions are complicated and nuanced and require some forethought. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with your accident-related medical records, the effects the accident has had on your earnings, and more can go a long way toward helping you prepare for your deposition.
Three: Take Your Own Sweet Time
Yes, you will be peppered with questions at your deposition, but this does not mean that you need to answer at lightning speed. In fact, you are far better off taking your time. Take the time to really process the question being asked of you and make it your policy to answer only the question put to you – there is no reason to expound on the matter. If you are not sure what is being asked of you, let your attorney know.
The questions that are put to you are intended to trip you up, so instead of answering from the position of confusion, take the time to clear the matter up. You can always tell the person questioning you that you are not sure what he or she is looking for. All told, it is better to err on the side of caution and to clear up your confusion before proceeding. Taking the time to get your answers right from the outset can help you firm up your claim and bolster your ability to obtain just compensation that covers your damages in their entirety.
Four: Maintain Your Composure
As mentioned, the attorney asking you questions is attempting to knock you off balance, but if you are well prepared and confident going in, you are going to make it a lot more difficult for her or her to accomplish this goal. Some things you can do to help you to prepare include:
Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and do not go into your deposition hungry.
While there is no need to dress in your Sunday best, you should be dressed professionally – with clean, well-cared-for, comfortable, and well-fitting clothing.
You should appear well-kempt and should do whatever it takes to feel your most confident – including getting a haircut, having your nails spiffed up, or anything else – prior.
Arrive a bit early so you can get the lay of the land before your deposition starts.
The attorney for the insurance company is going to ask you personal and potentially uncomfortable questions, and you can count on him or her casting doubt on your credibility and attempting to shake your confidence by whatever means possible. This is the attorney’s job, and you should be well-prepared not to take the bait that is being handed to you. Becoming angry or combative is not going to serve you well.
Allowing this to happen leaves you far more vulnerable to saying something that could hurt your claim, and any bad behavior on your part does not reflect well on you generally, which is not what you are going for. An important point to remember is that if you feel the temperature in the room rising or you recognize that you need a minute to cool down, you can request a break and should do so.
Five: Work Closely with Your Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney
Working closely with your dedicated personal injury attorney is the most important step you can take when it comes to mastering your deposition for a personal injury claim. It is far too easy to go very far astray when you head into the vast unknown of a deposition, but with your personal injury attorney by your side, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you are well prepared for the deposition to come, that you know what to expect, and that you know how to handle yourself. With all of these pieces in place, you will be ready to move forward toward your deposition with confidence.
You Need an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney on Your Side
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence and are seeking the compensation to which you are entitled in a personal injury claim, you may be deposed along the way. While the thought of deposition can be intimidating, it need not be. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a personal injury attorney who has a wealth of experience guiding clients like you through relatively painless depositions that serve to bolster their claims – rather than to hinder them. Our resourceful legal team is on your side and well prepared to help, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today for more information about what we can do for you.