Now we are down to the “meat” of the litigation process – the depositions. All of your paperwork and documents have been submitted and it’s time for the question and answer session. This typically takes place four to nine months after your lawsuit has been served on the defense.
This session is important. You’ll be under oath and must answer the questions honestly. A court reporter will be present so that everything you and the attorneys say is recorded. Don’t worry about this session – your lawyer will spend a good deal of time preparing you for this. Remember, the primary goal is to make a good impression that will in turn help build your credibility. TV really has done a number on presenting how depositions roll. Step number one is to ignore anything you’ve seen on TV. Your deposition will not be aggressive or adversarial and is nothing to fear.
In addition to being a friendly and professional presence at your deposition, it is very important that you also dress professionally. Another tip is to respond to questions as briefly as possible. If you can answer simply with a “yes” or “no”, do so – shorter is better! And, if you don’t know the answer to a question, feel free to respond with “I don’t know”. Remember, be honest and that means no guessing.
You may find the opposing lawyer very likable. That’s wonderful, but don’t let your guard down. Never have any conversations with the opposing lawyer before or after your deposition. Keep in mind that he or she was hired to make sure you recover little or no money from the lawsuit.
To summarize, the following deposition pointers should be followed:
- Dress appropriately as if you were going to court
- Treat everyone in the deposition room with respect
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Tell the truth
- Don’t volunteer facts that haven’t been requested
- Don’t produce documents unless your lawyer says to
- Be prepared – have facts and figures for lost wages, doctor bills, etc. handy
- Don’t answer questions unless you clearly understand them
- Accurately report your injuries and/or losses – don’t exaggerate
- Answer all questions directly and then STOP TALKING
- Don’t let the defendant’s attorney upset or anger you
All of the above are common sense pointers. But, they are so important that we feel it’s worth repeating. Follow them to a “T”.
The final stage of your pre-litigation is mediation where you’ll have the opportunity to settle your case without going to trial. You will meet with your attorney, the defense attorney, a representative of the insurance company who insures the defendant and a mediator. In some cases, the defendant may also be present. Mediation is a prerequisite to a trial and no judge will allow your case to go before a jury without first going through mediation. The good news is that mediation is where your lawyer does all the talking. Take advantage of his or her expertise and just sit and listen. In other words, don’t say a word whether you agree with what your lawyer says or not. You can discuss it all later when alone.
Without going into all of the details of the back and forth involved in mediation, you just need to know that if no settlement is agree upon, you have reach an impasse and your case will now most likely go to trial. We’ll go over the details of a trial in a future blog.