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What to do to prepare for a deposition in an injury case?

More and more personal injury cases end up in litigation as the offers from insurance companies has decreased. As a result, many clients may have their deposition taken. This can be nerve-racking for many. It is usually not that bad if you follow one main rule- don't guess or exaggerate. It sounds simple, and most people want to just "tell it like it is". However, by the time your deposition is taken, years have gone by. The events just aren't as fresh in your mind. So, people sometimes try to fill in those blanks, even unintentionally. I am not even talking about information that necessarily helps the case or sounds better, it just didn't happen. What this does is hurt the credibility of the speaker.

Patient History- The primary area where this happens is the medical chart. First, most people never read their medical records. One problem spot is the patient history. It basically tells the doctor what happened to cause the injury. This information may not have come from the patient. Sometimes, the doctor misunderstands and writes it down wrong. The important thing to note is what is says and deal with it. Even if truthful, it is rarely effective to say that the doctor wrote it down wrong. Jurors don't know you, and some jurors are suspicious of plaintiffs. So, they have a tendency to believe what the doctors wrote versus your version of events.

Pain Levels- Second, pain levels are a constant topic for cross-examination. Many times doctors will ask you to rate your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. The doctor will then write it down. You may be asked by the defense lawyer about your pain levels on the day you were injured and then how the levels change over time. You need to review that. Pain levels can fluctuate in short time frames. There are good days and bad days. So, if you say, "my pain level was a 10 the entire first week after the wreck", then check to make sure. One or two visits may show lower pain levels. This is very common. Don't get this wrong. Defense lawyers love to try and use your mistake against you by suggesting that you are exaggerating your pain levels.

Where does it hurt? Third, the areas of the body that are injured may not be completely described by the doctors. If you go to see a doctor, and you say, "my back is absolutely killing me, I can't sleep and I can't do my job, and oh by the way my elbow hurts." What do you think will get written in the chart? Many doctors use a "triage mentality" which means treat the bad stuff and don't worry about the small stuff. The problem develops when the first mention in the medical records about elbow pain is not until two weeks after a car wreck. You say you told the doctor. The doctor didn't write it down. In the doctor's deposition, he or she may say that there were no elbow complaints. It makes you look bad. Also, if you have nerve damage, pain can radiate into nearby areas. So, the doctor might write down leg pain when the real problem is your low back that is radiating pain. The defense attorney will try and say, "the plaintiff had no low back pain until two weeks after the wreck."

The thing to learn from the above, is that you should not guess, and don't fill in the blanks. You want to answer completely, but if you don't know then say you don't know. Also, you should review, and your attorney should definitely review, your chart thoroughly. If you do this, you will maintain credibility, which is the key to winning jury trials.