How to Prepare for A Deposition as a Medical Malpractice Plaintiff
How to Prepare for a Deposition as a Medical Malpractice Plaintiff
At some point during the pre-trial phase of a medical malpractice suit, depositions of the parties will be conducted. A deposition is a witness's testimony under oath before trial. The purpose of a deposition is to allow opposing counsel to find out what a party's testimony will be at trial, to establish the facts and circumstances of the case, and to preserve the parties' memories of events before too much time has elapsed. In a medical malpractice case, the defendant or defendants want to learn the plaintiff's side of the story as well as to see the plaintiff face-to-face, assess how a jury might view the plaintiff, assess the plaintiff for any injuries and/or results of the alleged malpractice that might be visible or apparent in a deposition setting, and judge the plaintiff's credibility.
Present at a deposition with you will be your attorney, the attorney for the defendant, attorneys for any other defendants in the case, the court reporter and, sometimes, the defendant. A deposition is conducted in a question-and-answer format with the attorney for the defendant asking you questions. Your attorney may also ask you questions in order to clarify an answer that was not clear or to notify the defendant of issues that might be pertinent to settlement negotiations. Often, a plaintiff's attorney will ask the plaintiff questions regarding damages, that is, what the result of the alleged malpractice has had on you and your family. For instance, if you have been unable to work or are no longer able to participate in your favorite hobby as a result of the alleged malpractice, your attorney may want to notify the defense of that information in order to encourage a settlement prior to trial.
Prior to the questioning, you will be asked to take an oath or affirmation certifying that all answers will be truthful. This is called swearing in the witness. Usually, the court reporter who is present to record your testimony will swear you in. Throughout the remainder of the deposition, the oath remains in force. Sometimes, the court reporter will remind you after a lunch or coffee break that you are still under oath.
In responding to questions, you must answer truthfully. The deposition will be used by both sides to prepare their cases for trial. The attorneys will be very familiar with your deposition testimony. Thus, any testimony at trial that differs from what a witness testified to at deposition may be used to impeach your credibility. If you do not know the answer to a question or do not recall the answer, the best response is to answer "I don't know" or "I don't recall." It is important that you not try to analyze the impact of the answers on the case before responding. Your attorney will go over potentially difficult questions in preparing you for your deposition. However, if a question is asked that requires an answer that might be detrimental to the case, you should nevertheless answer honestly. Likewise, if you remember that you answered a prior question incorrectly, you should correct your answer during the deposition. While you will have an opportunity to read and correct your deposition transcript after it has been transcribed by the court reporter, it is better to correct an incorrect answer as soon as possible.
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