No, we’re not in court yet. It’s your deposition, but it’s every bit as important.
We’ve answered the interrogatories. (See Ugh. Interrogatories.) Now they want to ask you questions in person, under oath. That’s what a deposition is. How does it work?
First of all, relax! Your personal injury lawyer will sit next to you to make sure things proceed as they should. Is there a document you should be looking at, in order to answer a question? Your personal injury lawyer will make sure you have a copy in front of you. Is opposing counsel being overly repetitive or asking questions she shouldn’t? Your personal injury lawyer will stop them.
A deposition is not a trial, but you still need to tell the truth. It seems like court because the lawyers for both sides are present and you are sworn in by a court reporter. As in court, there may be objections and legal discussions between the lawyers–while you’re patiently wondering what the fuss is about–but you’re sitting in a law office, not a court room. There’s no judge up front saying “sustained” or “overruled.” Meanwhile, as in court, you’re not supposed to talk until it’s your turn to answer a question. Also, as in court, virtually everything is recorded by the court reporter.
If during the deposition there is a dispute, listen carefully to what your own lawyer says. Most likely, you will be required to answer the question. If you’re not supposed to answer, you will be told.
A deposition is a bit like a job interview, with your written interrogatory answers, sent to defense counsel ahead of time, serving as your resume. If anything has changed since you sent in these answers, or something you said earlier now seems a bit wrong, you should ask us to fix it before the deposition takes place, or at least give us time to tell the other side about it on the record before the questioning begins. Meanwhile, you should remain as calm as possible, and stay polite.
If all goes well the questioning lawyer will conclude you’re a strong, credible witness, and will likely be a stellar witness at trial. If you do well at deposition, the conclusion will be that this is a case the insurance company needs to settle. Whether we hope to go to trial or not, we like it when they feel that way.
At Ingerman & Horwitz, we’ll prepare you for deposition, just like we’ll prepare you at every other stage of your case. For more pointers about depositions, see this article on our resources page.