You file a personal injury lawsuit over your car accident or your slip and fall, and a few weeks later you get a call from your lawyer: "Your deposition has been scheduled," she tells you. Is it time to panic? No. A deposition can certainly be stressful, but often the anticipation is more unpleasant than the actual experience.
Preparation can make your personal injury deposition experience a lot less intimidating. The best way to understand what to expect at your deposition is to talk with your attorney about the process. Your attorney has a vested interest in making sure you handle the other side's questions the right way, and she will make sure you’re as prepared as possible. If you have any specific concerns, just ask.
It's also helpful to review your answers to interrogatories, any accident report, any recorded statements you’ve given, your medical bills and records, and any legal paperwork you've already filed with the court. (Get more tips on preparing for a personal injury deposition.)
Let's take a look at the kinds of questions you can expect to be asked.
- What is your current address? What are your previous home addresses over the last 10/15/20 years?
- What is your current job? Do you have an employer or are you self-employed? What is your current salary? What jobs have you held over the last 10/15/20 years? What were your reasons for leaving those jobs? Did you choose to leave or were you terminated? (Especially if you’re claiming lost wages as part of your personal injury damages, you can expect to be asked for a lot of details regarding your employment and income history.)
- What kinds of legal claims or lawsuits have you been involved in in the past? (This includes any insurance claims, workers' compensation claims, and any prior lawsuits, even if not injury-related, including divorces.)
- Have you been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanors?
- What illnesses and injuries have you had over the course of your life? (Expect to recall every hospital visit, the names of every doctor who has ever treated you, and other details of your medical history. Answer as completely as you can, and add "That is all I remember at this time" or something similar as a disclaimer.)
The Accident and Your Injuries
- Describe the details of your accident. (For example, for a deposition in a car accident case, the lawyer who is deposing you will try to walk you through every aspect of the accident: where you were going, where you were coming from, where you stopped in between, what route you took, when you left, what you'd been doing prior to leaving, who was with you, how the accident happened, whether you were wearing a seat belt, what direction you were traveling, whether your turn signal was on, whether your headlights were on, what condition your car was in prior to the collision, what discussion you had with the other drivers and the police after the car accident, etc.)
- Describe the details of your injuries. (That means providing the names of every doctor who treated you; describing how you were referred to each doctor, your physical complaints to each doctor, what medical treatment you received from each doctor, whether your medical bills have been paid, how many times you've been to treatment, etc. You may even be asked some trick questions that are designed to make you look bad no matter how you answer: Are you feeling better today? Why did you see a chiropractor instead of a "real" doctor? Who is paying your doctor?)
- What kinds of physical limitations are you experiencing as a result of your injuries? (You can definitely expect this line of questioning if you're claiming temporary or permanent impairment or disability.)
- How have your injuries affected other aspects of your life? (This is where the lawyer will want details regarding any claimed "pain and suffering" and "loss of enjoyment".)