Let’s get some basic facts of your case straight so that you know if this post applies to you:
A year or so ago you were in a car accident and then you wisely hired a car accident lawyer who has been helping you navigate your claim.
You had some injuries so your lawyer sent you to some doctors for treatment.
You went to a chiropractor or physical therapist.
You also saw a pain doctor and perhaps an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon who recommended you have surgery.
Maybe you decided to have that surgery and you are busy recovering and hoping your claim gets settled so you don’t have to go all the way to trial.
Unfortunately, because of the amount of money you rightly deserve, your lawyer has told the insurance company that you are not accepting any low ball offers.
Insurance companies don’t believe you will go all the way to trial so they decide to place their bets and call your lawyer’s bluff about going to trial.
Your lawyer (being the good lawyer that she is) is not buying the insurance companies salty bologna and files suit before the statute of limitations (the amount of time you have to file a case before you lose that right) runs out on your case.
After the lawsuit is filed you are sent written discovery. These are questions requesting certain answers about you, your prior medical history, employment history and facts related to the accident.
After those questions are answered and documents are submitted you are notified that the insurance company wants to depose you.
You start getting nervous because you’ve never been deposed and from what you have seen on Law and Order on late night television it doesn’t look all too appealing.
That’s ok though because you found this post and are going to learn a few key tips to get through the deposition and shine so bright that the insurance company is going to want to settle after talking with you.
Tip 1: Tell the truth and don’t appear to fabricate, be saucy or hide anything. Listen the truth is going to come out. These insurance companies have vast troves of data that make the credit card companies shiver. They will find out everything they can about you so the best thing you can do for you, your case and your lawyer is to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A good lawyer can work with bad facts, but she can’t work with lies. Don’t lie, no matter how bad the facts may look to you. Talk to your lawyer about it and formulate a game plan. You want them to believe and know you are honest so they feel comfortable enough to pay you.
Tip 2: Be polite, courteous and dress up. It goes without saying that nice people go farther in life than mean ones. Think of a deposition as a job interview. You want to impress them. You want them shaking in their boots. If you present to them as a good witness – someone who can clearly articulate what happened, appear honest and sympathetic to the jurors, you will bet your bottom dollar they would rather settle with you than allow you to be put on the stand.
Tip 3: Review the facts with your lawyer and go over the types of questions you will be asked to get you comfortable answering questions. Your lawyer should do some deposition preparation with you so you know what to expect. Most of the questions that will be asked to you, they already know the answer to because they got the answers in your written discovery. They want to get you comfortable so you can start talking. The more you talk the worse it can tend to be. So you want to review the expected questions ahead of time and formulate a game plan.
Tip 4: Answer the question. The correct answer to the question “Do you have a middle name” is “Yes.” Not, “David.” You have to answer the question and the shorter the answer the better. They are digging and investigating so the least amount of you can give them to work with the better. Keep it short and answer the question by listening to it. Don’t get into a conversation with them.
Tip 5: Don’t drink coffee. Despite the tendency to want to drink coffee, the reality is caffeine increases blood pressure and quickens your thoughts. That means you are likely to talk more (when you should be talking less). You are likely to get more irritable (when you need to be polite). Drink lots of water and take as many bathroom breaks as you need to get the rest you need to recharge for the next set of questions.
Tip 6: Instead of saying “No” say, “Not to my recollection” or “I do not recall.” It is harder for your attorney to work with a no than it is one of the statements above. If you are absolutely certain that the answer is a No then say that. But if there is any inclination of doubt, best to hedge your bets and say one of the other phrases. It gives your lawyer more wiggle room to work with if your memory turns out not to be as good as you think.
It is perfectly normal to have anxiety before a deposition. You are worried about saying the wrong thing. You will do great if you follow the tips above. Even lawyers get jitters before speaking in front of jurors or taking a deposition. It is completely normal. So, take a deep breath and go show those counselors that they need to be nervous if they choose to deny you the settlement that you deserve.