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Depositions and personal injury claims: How to handle one

Have you been asked to give a deposition in your personal injury case? If so, you may already be starting to feel nervous -- and that's natural.

However, there are a few tips you can use to get through the deposition a little more easily:

1. Realize that the opposition in your case has several goals:

  • They want to see how strong of a case you really have.
  • They are looking for unknown weaknesses in your case.
  • They want to see how well you do when testifying.

You can't really control the strengths or weaknesses of your case -- and your attorney is likely already aware of them and discussed them with you -- but you can control how you seem as a witness.

It's important to seem composed, calm and honest. That makes you a credible witness that's hard to exploit in front of a jury.

2. Learn to pause and then make your answers short and sweet.

Pausing gives you time to remember that you need to answer the question in the most minimal way possible -- otherwise, you may just accidentally hand the opposition information that could damage your case.

It also gives your attorney a chance to object to the opposing counsel's question. If there's an objection, don't answer until your attorney signals to you that it is okay.

When you do answer, try to reply, "Yes," "No," "I don't know," or "I don't remember," as often as possible. Do not elaborate with any other details unless asked. Keep in mind that the last two answers are always okay to use if they're the truth.

3. Remember that you're always on display.

That includes the time that you're sitting around in breaks, waiting on the stenographer or anybody else to arrive. Don't joke around -- your statements can be taken literally by anyone around you. For example, if the opposing counsel asks, "How are you?" a sarcastic, "Oh, just fantastic," can be considered a statement of fact -- when what you really mean is that you're in pain and struggling to be there.

Personal injury cases can be complex and lengthy. An experienced attorney can help you prepare, including information on how to handle a personal injury deposition.

Source: FindLaw, "Guidelines for Giving Your Deposition," accessed Sep. 20, 2017

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