Home » Understanding & Preparing For Your Deposition

I want to talk to you as a personal injury lawyer in Belleville, Illinois, about your upcoming deposition. A deposition is the event where the parties in a civil lawsuit obtain testimony from witnesses under oath prior to trial. It’s part of the discovery process by which parties gather facts and information so they can be prepared at trial to present their claims and defenses.

What I want to discuss today is what I tell my clients about depositions, how to respond during your deposition and what to expect at your upcoming deposition.

The type of a deposition in a civil case is called a discovery deposition and this is when the lawyers from each side have the opportunity to discover facts about the other person’s case.

I represent plaintiffs which means I represent people who are injured. I don’t represent insurance companies so when I’m taking a deposition of
someone I am deposing, generally the person who caused the accident or caused the injury.

Discovery depositions are where one party gets to discover things about the other side’s case. When they’re taking my client’s deposition, I know that certain questions are going to be asked by the other lawyer. I’ll going to use an example of a deposition in an automobile accident. If one of my clients is hurt and I’m alleging damages, I can be sure that the other lawyer is going to be asking my client about the accident and what happened. They’re going to be asking what their injuries are, what kind of problems they’ve had from their injuries, and about prior medical conditions that the person has had. Perhaps those prior injuries or conditions are similar to what they suffered in the automobile accident scenerio we’re discussing.

The other attorney is also going to be asking questions about what your doctors have told you, what doctors you’ve been to and in general how you’re getting along with your injuries. Presumably after you’ve been released from the doctor, which is usually when depositions are taken.

So, how do we answer those questions?

The number one rule is: always tell the truth. I always tell my clients to make sure you are absolutely telling the truth. The reason is that this deposition is sworn testimony. Plus, there will be a court reporter at your deposition, taking down verbatim everything that you say. If you testify to one thing in in your discovery deposition and your case goes to jury trial and you’re asked that same question again by the other lawyer, you can bet that that other lawyer knows exactly how you answered that question in your discovery deposition. In other words, what you testified to 3, 4, 6 months or a year prior contrasted by what you’re saying at the time of trial might make it look like you’re lying because you’ve told two inconsistent things. Always tell the truth. There’s never a reason not to tell the truth.

I also tell my clients that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer if you truly don’t know the answer to the question. Nobody, including the other lawyer, and certainly not your own lawyer wants you to take a guess at something when maybe it’s really not accurate. If you have a best estimate that’s fine. The lawyer who is asking the questions can follow up with questions to determine what knowledge you have. But, if you truly don’t know an answer, just say “I don’t know,” and and leave it up to the other lawyer to follow up with other questions.

Don’t overuse the “I don’t know” response. Answer the question that is asked of you if possible. This is this lawyer’s opportunity to discover things about your relationship to the case. But it doesn’t mean that you have to volunteer anything that he hasn’t asked you. In other words, if you are asked you what color pants you’re wearing today, don’t tell the attorney, “I’m wearing blue pants, a checkered shirt, black socks and a tie.” He didn’t ask you for all that extra information.

Listen to the question so that you can answer accurately and completely. If it’s a yes or no question you answer, out loud, yes or no not using gestures that we all use in conversation. Your intent is to make a clear record.

I always make sure my clients understand not to talk over the other lawyer. Let him finish with his question before you answer. In fact, it’s best to think in terms of giving yourself a one or two second pause before you tell the other lawyer the answer to the question.

Don’t get mad. You can’t get mad at the person questioning you. You just have to understand that this lawyer is doing a job. You don’t want to fall victim to his trying to get you mad and making you look like a bad person. This is the opposing counsel’s opportunity to size you up to figure out if you’re a credible person, how you’re going to answer questions, and how you’re going to appeal to a jury. I guarantee that that other lawyer, who reports to an insurance company, is going to tell his people his opinion on what kind of person you appeared to be and whether he thinks you’re credible and whether he thinks that the jury will believe that you’re credible.

If the other lawyer asks who your relatives are, perhaps in the county where the accident or incident occurred, the reason he’s asking is primarily because he doesn’t want a second cousin or an ex-wife or nephew on a jury. That’s the only reason they ask questions like this. It might feel natural to feel offended by that, but don’t. The attorney just doesn’t want your relatives on a jury.

It’s important to know who is going to be present at your deposition. A court reporter will be there, the other lawyer who’s asking you questions will be there, but if there’s any doubt your lawyer will be there with you too. Your lawyer will be able to object if he can’t understand the question or that you might not understand the question. He’s there to object if it’s an improper question. He is your guardian, so to speak, to take care of you during your deposition, but the other lawyer gets pretty wide latitude. Your lawyer, however, will limit the line of questions, keeping it where it needs to be.

Listen to what your lawyer says. If your lawyer objects to some line of questioning, wait before that question is answered. Let your lawyer speak if he needs to.

Depositions are like going to the dentist: nobody really wants to have to do them but by the time it’s all said and done they’re not so bad. I haven’t ever had anybody tell me
it was the worst experience of their life yet. They’re pretty simple they usually last an hour to an hour and a half. Depositions are allowed to go 3 hours in a state court case and
longer in federal court cases.

Most of you watching this video probably already have a lawyer, however if you don’t and if you need legal advice on any of this kind of legal matter, feel free to contact my office at 618-239-6070.

The Kirkpatrick Law Office proudly serves clients as a personal injury lawyer in St Clair County, Illinois and a personal injury lawyer, coal mine injury attorney, industrial accident lawyer, workers compensation and construction accident lawyer in Belleville, Illinois and other areas of Southern Illinois including but not limited to Carbondale, IL, Goreville, IL, De Soto, IL, Murphrysboro, IL, Freeburg, IL, Coulterville, IL, Hecker, IL, Waterloo, IL, Sparta, IL, St. Clair County, IL, Madison County, IL, Johnson County, IL, Randolph County, IL, Clinton County, IL and other Southern Illinois locations.

We typically assist injured workers and people with neck injuries, back injuries, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, elbow injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, people requiring back surgery, coal mine injuries, union worker injuries, iron worker injuries, boilermaker, pipefitter and laborer injuries, those hurt as a result of construction accidents, road construction, semi-truck accidents, cell phone drivers, discrimination, warehouse injuries. We also help people hurt in nursing home injuries while lifting patients in nursing homes or other medical facilities.