Have you ever been sworn in? To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? This is done when your deposition starts, and is one of the most important steps in a law suit. The Plaintiff is given the chance to tell the Defense attorney his/her story. This is done under oath, and everything is written down so there will be no mistake about what was asked or answered. Later on when the case is in front of a jury, the deposition can become a weapon against you. The Defense lawyer is entitled to read from your deposition to the jury, to show you are inconsistent and probably not telling the truth.
So, how do clients ruin a good case at a deposition? Let’s just make up a case for example. If the plaintiff fell down a flight of steps and gets hurt, the Defense will want to know about the fall and the injuries. The Defense attorney will have read all of your medical records and will know about all prior treatment you had. So when he asks a question about other medical treatment before the fall it is important to answer truthfully: Yes, I had another slip and fall about 10 years ago and hurt my back.
Here are some typical questions that seem to always come up:
- Have you ever made a claim before?
- Why did you leave your job with ABC Company?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- What restrictions and limitations did you have before this accident?
- What are your new restrictions and limitations?
- Did you ever complain about injuries to the same part of your body before?
- Have you ever had to use prescription medicine for relief of your pain before?
- Have you ever had headaches before?
- Have you ever had back pain before?
- Weren’t all your bills paid for by insurance?
You would be surprised how many times the client fails to answer these questions honestly. When they do so, they ruin their case. Not even the best attorney can come in and clean up a mess when the client appears to be lying.
When I represent a client I always prepare them and tell them to be 100% honest in answering questions during their deposition. But, they don’t always listen. Once the deposition begins they get into a rhythm and answer questions without even carefully listening to the questions because they get nervous. Even the ones who are smart make mistakes and fail to provide honest answers. Maybe they don’t understand, maybe they think they can get away with it. But they are only hurting themselves