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December 21, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I was in a serious auto accident in October of 2009. I do have an attorney. We've filed suit to settle the case, and my deposition is this afternoon. As the time grows closer, I'm getting more and more anxious about this. What should I expect?

The settlement value of this case is very high, because my injuries were serious and my medical bills were high. The other driver's insurance has (I assume) accepted his responsibility because they already paid the loss on the vehicle (scooter vs car - I was the scooter). Yet I suspect (because I distrust insurance companies, and because of some other things that have happened in the case) that they're going to try and play hardball and perhaps insinuate that I somehow caused the crash (I did not). I do have a prep session with my attorney one hour before the deposition, but I'm losing my mind waiting until then.

Have you been through this? What should I expect?
posted by anastasiav to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your attorney will (and should) prepare you for everything the defense might ask you. Just stay calm, tell the truth as you remember it, and heed all your attorney's advice.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2009

Do not be afraid of silence. Answer the question and STOP talking. Wait for them to ask another question. They will try to get you to say something that benefits them. Keep your answers on point and short. Your attorney will tell you this. There are times when you will fell uncomfortable by the silence.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

Answer only the question asked. Do not assume anything about what is asked, do not interpret, do not try to be helpful, do not conclude, do not volunteer information, do not explain. Answer as briefly as possible only the question asked. Answer only the question asked. Do not answer anything more. Answer only the question asked. Answer only after a brief pause for your lawyer to object.
posted by orthogonality at 10:29 AM on December 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Following up on JohnnyGunn: a standard method in interrogations is for the interrogator to stop talking, sometimes after making a leading statement; most people feel uncomfortable in silence, and try to fill in the silence by speaking: explaining, forgiving, asking for forgiveness. In a deposition, silence is your friend.
posted by orthogonality at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Depositions are easy. Answer only "yes" or "no" any time "yes" or "no" satisfies the question, then stop talking. Never elaborate unless specifically asked, and only elaborate to answer questions as precisely as possible. "I don't know" and "I don't remember" are always acceptable answers no matter how browbeaten you are. Don't be bullied into making things up.

And don't drink coffee before you go in. Have a nice cup of green tea or something else soothing. Last thing you need are caffeine jitters!
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2009

I was about to say the same as JohnnyGunn. Do not answer more than you are asked. If they ask a yes/no question answer yes or no and then go silent. Don't say for example, "Yes, because..."

Don't speak directly to the other involved person.
posted by Babblesort at 10:33 AM on December 21, 2009

Most depositions take place in the conference room of one of the attorney's offices. It can be posh or a dump. You may be offered snacks and certainly will be offered water. If you are not offered water, ask for some. There will be a court reporter present and at least one attorney for every party in the lawsuit will be there or will be participating by phone.

You will be asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. You will be asked if you have ever been sued. You may be asked other slightly insulting things. These are the questions at the top of the list for every deposition ever. Attorneys just ask them as routine.

You must, at all times, remain calm and say as little as necessary. Speak clearly and answer with words (yes or no, not "umm-hm"). If an answer requires a hand gesture to be understood (like "This far apart", gesturing with your hands), rephrase your answer as a description: "About as far apart as this conference table, which looks like 8 feet long to me." The you'll have a little discussion in the record of the length of the conference table which will better illuminate your answer. However, don't guess in an answer. Just say "I don't know and I'm not comfortable guessing."

You should not be afraid to say "I don't understand your question" or "I don't recall." You should not be afraid to hesitate before answering. You should not be afraid to ask to take a break or for a moment to compose yourself. You should not be afraid to ask to be treated with respect if someone is being rude to you. However, your attorney will / should be doing all those things on your behalf. Please follow your attorney's instructions as closely as possible, too. She knows the intimacies of your case and can best advise you how to react and respond to the particulars of your deposition.

Remember, however, it is a deposition and not a hearing. Even if your attorney objects to a question, your attorney will almost certainly direct you to answer the question anyway. Also, some attorneys are complete dicks who love nothing more than making people feel horrible in depositions, so take nothing anyone says personally. It's hard, but just remember they think it's a game and something they get to brag about to their colleagues. Don't give them that satisfaction. Just remain calm, answer the question as simply and as truthfully as possible. Relax, despite the dire warnings you may hear, it's not a make or break situation--it's just a deposition.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:43 AM on December 21, 2009 [6 favorites]

Ask mods for deletion of this question, call your attorney. Everything here is discoverable.

Do not, under any circumstances, listen to any of the advice you are going to get here about how to act in a deposition. A licensed attorney representing you in your jurisdiction should be the only person that you take legal advice from regarding your case.

Your attorney will know exactly what you need to do. Tell him or her that you are nervous about the deposition. This person is paid to serve you.

I've never given a deposition, but I have taken quite a few. Don't worry about what to say until you meet with the attorney. Approach this situation as an emotional issue until you have your actual prep. From an emotional and human standpoint (not legal advice), I think you need to experience the fear and let it pass over you. The more you observe these cycles, you'll see a pattern: About one per hour. Realize that these feelings are merely passing.

Again, advise deleting this.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:58 AM on December 21, 2009

Ironmouth is scaring you. You haven't done anything wrong.... yet. Do not post anything else in here, and just listen to your attorney.
posted by 2legit2quit at 12:07 PM on December 21, 2009

Chances are the other side will be infuriating, and will try to unsettle you and provoke some kind of outburst by strongly implying that your injuries are not as serious as you claim. For instance, if you are claiming that your freedom of movement has been affected, they might ask you all kinds of questions about how much you walk, etc. They will probably also have reports from their doctors that support their contention that you are in the best of health, i.e., implying that you are lying.

Part of the proceedings, I would guess, is also them shaping up how you'd look in a witness stand - will you come across as sympathetic to a jury? or as unlikeable?

Be guided by your attorneys, and just know that this is not a meeting that's aimed at uncovering the truth of the situation. It's an adverserial encounter where they're trying to throw you off. Stay calm, view them as the buzzing of flies, not to be taken seriously.
posted by jasper411 at 1:02 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I AM an attorney and have handled many many cases in this area in the State in which I practice.
I put this in all caps for a reason:
DO NOT LISTEN TO ANY OF OUR ANSWERS. If you have hired an attorney in whom you have confidence talk to that person about this.

If you lack the confidence in your attorney to discuss this with that person THEN YOU HAVE THE WRONG ATTORNEY.
Setting aside the apparently neat fact of a pile of money falling on you, remember - you are only potentially getting money BECAUSE YOU WERE VERY HURT. You must handle this with all seriousness. Failure to prepare and failure to communicate with your attorney can impair / harm / destroy the value of the case when you may need the funds to compensate for wages you will not now earn, medical expenses you will have, etc.

BTW, Ironmouth is completely right. There is no evidentiary privilege here. The only advice you should take from this thread is - IMMEDIATELY talk to your attorney about it and, if your attorney recommends it, seek deletion of the thread. It is discoverable in the litigation.
Without knowing the exhaustive details of your situation I cannot, and noone else can, predict what impact this thread will have on your case.

Other than that, I have no opinion to offer.
posted by BrooksCooper at 4:06 PM on December 21, 2009

Ironmouth makes a good point with the letting the anxiety work itself out.

(The rest of his remark is a little over the top, and if he really believed it was discoverable, he is giving you bad legal advice with the have it deleted part. If this question were to become evidence, having asked for it to be deleted seems awfully close to tampering with evidence. Or at least the appearance of it. But don't worry about it.)

Anyway, the advice here is sound, as will be, I'm sure, the advice of your attorney. I would suggest that you turn off that part of your brain that parses language emotionally and that tries to interpret language.

(The part of your brain that interprets the question "did you eat lunch yet" as "hey, let's go get lunch". Don't do that. Practice answering questions exactly as they are asked, and no more.)

Don't take it personal, don't let the "feel" of the situation affect your answers. Fight any and all urges to clarify, expand, defend etc, unless your attorney advises you to do so.

When the other side(s) are asking questions, they are trying to gather evidence that they will try to use (later) to defend their side. So you want to give them ONLY the information they ask for. And don't equivocate or lie or anything like that. Along those same lines, however, is that if you aren't exactly clear about an answer, you should either confer with your attorney, or answer as specifically as you can.

(Like, "how fast were you going at the time?" Unless you actually KNOW you were going exactly 25 MPH, you should probably answer along the lines of "I believe I was going approximately 25 mph.")

If a question seems odd, or insulting or otherwise squirrely, don't freak out and don't answer instantly. If necessary, ask for the question to be repeated or rephrased. This will give you an opportunity to gather your thoughts, and think about what exactly the question is asking for.

Do the same thing when your lawyer is asking you questions. He or she will ask the necessary questions to elicit the responses that they think are necessary.

And ask your attorney what you should do if you feel uncomfortable or have to ask him a question or go to the bathroom or whatever.

Also ask your attorney what the schedule of the meeting will be. Who is running it, who goes first, etc.
posted by gjc at 4:32 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

One example my attorney gave me before a scheduled deposition (for work) was if the opposing attorney asks you if you know what time it is, you either respond with "yes" and no more or "no" because unless you have access to an atomic clock, you really don't know what time it is. Do not answer, "Yes, it is 4:30." Too much information. Not what was asked.

My only concern for you is that your attorney is only meeting you an hour before the deposition and may not have time to fully prep and answer all your questions. Do not feel pressured or panic if you think you are not ready. Better to be late or postpone than go in not prepared. And, as the attorneys in this thread have pointed out, if your lawyer is worth her salt, she will have you fully ready and tell you everything you need to know in your particular situation.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:35 PM on December 21, 2009

Make sure to maximize your pain. I don't mean to lie (don't lie!) but I mean be very very very thorough and specific and lengthy when you outline how much pain the accident has caused you and if it's affected your ability to earn money or find a mate or start a family in the short and long term.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:45 PM on December 21, 2009

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