Personal Injury Specialists Roth and Ritigstein Author Article in Plaintiff Magazine
Boxer & Gerson attorneys Gary Roth and Eric Ritigstein recently authored an article in Plaintiff magazine entitled “Preparing Your Client to Give a Deposition That Helps Your Case.” The three-page article emphasized the critical importance of fully preparing clients for a deposition they will likely face from the defense attorney in their case.
As familiar as the setting may be to the plaintiff’s attorneys, Roth and Ritigstein remind them what a foreign and intimidating experience it likely will be for their deposed client, and how important a thorough preview and preparation of the process will be for the deposition to positively impact the case.
Common pitfalls include:
- A deposed client responding positively to the defendant’s attorney, who usually takes great pains to be friendly and engaging to the client, with the hope that the client will thus let down his or her guard and speak too much, or offer off-the-cuff opinions or speculations that are not anchored in the facts of the case. It is imperative for plaintiff attorneys to remind their clients that the defense attorney “is not their friend,” Roth and Ritigstein write. The client’s responses should relate only to the facts of the case, with no side conversations or social pleasantries either during the deposition or during a break in the proceedings. In short, “The client needs to understand that a deposition is not a cocktail party conversation.”
- Clients should be prepared to distinguish between first-hand and second-hand information. This means that their own experience-“I experience pain in my lower back, knee and foot”-is appropriate as stated, but information they glean from their doctor-“I sustained a herniated disk”-must be referenced as coming from the doctor. The same applies for all other information from witnesses, police officers or others who were on the scene and may be called as witnesses. Clients should refrain from representing others’ statements or activity in any way.
- Falling into traps laid out by the defense attorney that can lead to imprecise or ambiguous answers that may later be used at trial to suggest a client’s inconsistency. Clients are always well advised to answer either “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know/I don’t remember” to questions in a truthful manner, neither expanding needlessly on those responses nor avoiding questions to which they do know the answers.
Ultimately, Roth and Ritigstein suggest that honesty, consistency, and answering the question and nothing more than the question best serves the client’s own interests. In this age of easy and inexpensive surveillance, it would be imprudent to answer what appear to be random questions from the defense (“Are you able to climb a 17-foot ladder?”) definitively. Such questions tend to be carefully planned with the hope of catching the client denying any such ability, even though the defense may have caught just such a random moment on a surveillance tape. Speculating on such an activity or anything else is never advisable. Clients who hold fast to that realization tend to help their own cases to a very significant degree.