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What is a Deposition in a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Case?

A deposition is the defense attorney’s opportunity to ask you questions about you and your  case, posing questions about the circumstances of your accident, the severity of your injuries, and your medical treatment. Depositions are an important part of your case, and are part of the “discovery” process of your case. Presenting yourself in a truthful, honest and sincere way at your deposition will have the most impact on the defense attorney and the opposing insurance company in their evaluation of you as a witness. Your attorney should be with you for your deposition, and under no circumstances should you give a deposition without having an attorney present.

Here are a few of the basic instructions most attorneys should give to their clients in preparation of deposition testimony.

  • Depositions are not conversations. Depositions are formal, legal proceedings. Be polite. If there is no question being asked of you, don’t say anything.

  • Be truthful. If the defense attorney feels you were not forthright in answers to any question you can be guaranteed he or she will use this against you at trial.

  • Be as precise as you can. Specificity is key.

  • Think before you answer. Make sure you understand the question. If you do not understand the question, ask for a clarification.

  • Do not volunteer information. Keep your answers short. When you give lengthy answers, you may reveal more information than you should, potentially giving the Defendant’s attorney ideas for more questions.

  • Never guess. You might be wrong. If you don’t know the answer, say you do not know. It is better to say nothing than to guess.

  • Do not get angry. Becoming angry sometimes will make you reveal too much information, and will send the message that you are ill-prepared to be a witness and cannot control yourself. The attorney for the other side will try to take advantage of that weakness at trial.

  • Stop talking when your attorney objects. Some questions are completely improper and should never get an answer.

  • Completely review any documents or photographs before answering questions about them. In other words, your attorney and you can look at anything the defense attorney presents you during the deposition before you try to answer questions about the document(s).

Now, we know this is a lot of information to take in. We also know that the idea of giving a deposition can be stressful on many people. That is why we spend time preparing ourselves in advance of a deposition. Stuart A. Carpey, for example, has recorded videos offering advice on the subject. In his videos, Stuart answers questions like “What is a Deposition and Why is it Important?”

To help you get an idea of what not to do in a deposition, we are sharing the transcript of a deposition. In this deposition, our client was testifying about how she fell and how she was injured. Unfortunately, our client was not being very clear in her descriptions. Although we were still able to successfully settle this case, our client’s deposition did not help her cause. Again, her mistake was that she was not specific in her answers.  This had an impact on the defense attorney’s evaluation of her as a witness. This serves to show that it is always best to provide distinct and clear answers to questions in a truthful and well-considered way. Again, click here to view the deposition.

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