In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Were You a Witness to an Automobile Accident? Tips for How to Handle a Deposition
In a personal injury claim involving an automobile accident, a deposition is one element of the pretrial process. You will be asked a series of questions by a lawyer for the opposing side (generally an insurance provider’s lawyer). Answers are provided under oath, and the court proceedings will be transcribed by a court reporter. If you have hired your own New Hampshire lawyer, then he or she will be present as well. Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years to help you prepare for your deposition:
Things To Do Before Your Deposition
1. Prepare. In your mind, thoroughly review your testimony. Consider the types of questions that you might be asked. Make sure that you clearly understand the facts in your mind. If you have hired an attorney, then you will meet with them in advance to prepare for the deposition.
2. Revisit the scene of the accident. You are encouraged to revisit the scene of the automobile accident in order to re-familiarize yourself with the scene and to refresh your memory of the incident. Take note of approximate distances and physical objects. You may be asked to recall these details.
3. Review your prior statements. If you have provided any additional statements or answered questions in other interrogations related to the accident, thoroughly review your prior statements before you are required to testify. This is done so to ensure that you won’t accidentally provide inconsistent testimony at the time of the deposition. In a court of law, it is considered a common cross examination technique to confront witnesses about any prior inconsistent statements they might have made.
What to Remember On the Day of Your Deposition
1. Be punctual. Ideally, you should arrive at the location where the deposition is scheduled to take place at least 15 minutes before its scheduled start time. Providing yourself with this extra window of time will enable you to acclimate to your surroundings, take any required trips to the restroom, and to relax before the deposition starts. Should you arrive before your attorney does, do not speak to anyone else regarding your testimony’s substance.
2. Make sure you are dressed appropriately. Dress as though you were attending a business meeting. Avoid wearing casual clothing, like shorts. You do not have to dress lavishly, but your appearance needs to be professional.
9 Tips for Actually Testifying
1. Listen to the question carefully and ensure that you understand it before answering. You cannot answer a question accurately if you do not understand it. Ask the questioner to do what is necessary in order for you to understand it, including saying it more loudly, rephrasing it, or repeating it. If you do not understand particular used within the question, ask the questioner to define them for you. Even if you must ask for clarification several times, do not answer it until you thoroughly understand it. Repeating the question to yourself can also be helpful in clarifying it.
2. Take a moment to pause before answering each question. There are three reasons why doing this is beneficial. First and foremost, it enables you to organize and gather your thoughts. Secondly, adding a pause enables your attorney to object to the question if he or she feels that it is inappropriate. Should you accidentally blurt out an answer without pausing, then your lawyer’s objections will be useless. Finally, adding the pause enables you to exercise control over the question’s pacing. This can actually be quite empowering! A questioner cannot move more quickly than you allow him or her too. Take control over your own time.
3. Answer each question honestly. Should you forget anything else we discuss today, remember this one rule: Answer only the question you are being asked. For example, if the questioner asks you what time it is, do not provide them with instructions on how to build a watch. Volunteering unasked information only invites trouble. It is quite possible you could inadvertently provide the questioner with valuable information that he or she could use against you. At the very least, volunteering info is only going to prolong the deposition while the questioner explores the info you have volunteered.
A surprising percentage of witnesses mistakenly believe that the purpose of a deposition is for them to provide a full account of the accident in question. This is a misconception. The purpose of a witness’s deposition is to answer only the questions that are asked. Period. If the asked questions do not draw out a full account of the incident, then that is the questioner’s problem – not yours.
4. Do not guess. If you do not know, or are not certain of, say “I do not remember” or “I do not know”. This is far preferable to guessing a wrong answer, which could seriously damage your credibility in a court of law.
5. Be specific in your answers, but no more. This is directly related to the preceding rule. For example, if you are asked what date the automobile accident occurred on, and you can recall the exact date, state it. However, if you can only correctly the month and year of the accident, then that is all you should say. Make certain it is clear you are testifying only as clearly as your memory will allow by using phrases such as “about” or “approximately” or “as best as I recall”. Prepare yourself for detailed questioning and to provide specific answers, but do not guess.
6. Never argue or become angry with the questioner. Despite what most individuals might think, the majority of questioners are polite. However, even if the questioner is rude or curt, you must be polite. It makes you an even more effective witness to be polite in the face of rude behavior.
7. Do not let the manner of the questioner, or how he or she phrases a question, intimidate you. Most questioners will be polite; however, there will occasionally be a questioner who has a cynical or surly look on their face, speaks in a confrontational tone, uses aggressive body posturing and language, or who seems to insinuate skepticism with their manner. If you run into any of these mannerisms, answer the questions honestly and calmly. Do not be influenced or intimidated by the manner of the questioner. Bear in mind that a deposition’s end result is a printed transcript of the answers and questions. Unless the deposition is recorded on video, certain elements, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, will not be evident on the transcript. Force yourself to focus on the question at hand and provide an honest answer to it. When you are answering a question, picture how it will appear on the transcript.
8. If you are questioned about an available document, read it. Do not offer comments on any document until you have had a chance to read it carefully.
9. Should you make a mistake…If you accidentally make a mistake, do not let it upset you. As soon as you realize the mistake has been made over the course of your testimony, correct it.
If you have any questions about how a witness deposition works, or are currently involved in a personal injury lawsuit, contact our law offices today. Your initial consultation is free, and each one of our experienced and skilled New Hampshire personal injury lawyers will be happy to answer your questions.
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