Preparation for Deposition/EBT
Before we prepare our client, we ask, if it is at all possible, for our client to visit the scene of the accident and prepare a handwritten sketch of the accident scene so that we can review it together. We ask our client to make a mental list of all of the activities that they believe they can no longer do as a result of the accident, and a list of those activities that they can do but with difficulty or limitations. There will always be questions concerning these issues at the deposition/EBT (Examination Before Trial).
Conduct During the EBT
Be polite at all times and treat the opposing counsel with courtesy regardless of his demeanor. Dress comfortably and appropriately as if going to a job interview, but not overly dressed, makeup and jewelry should be minimal. Gentlemen need not wear a tie unless they are comfortable and accustomed to doing so.
Our clients are accompanied to the EBT by attorneys who are experienced and fully familiar with the case. During the course of the EBT there may be discussions among the lawyers concerning questions posed. Listen to what your lawyer is saying but do not get involved in the discussion, use the moment to relax and gather your thoughts.
Listen, Stop, Think, Answer
LISTEN to the question, then STOP and THINK of the answer you are about to give…..does it answer the question…only then should you deliver an ANSWER. Never volunteer information not needed to answer the question. Put a period after the answer and stop! Nothing drives us more crazy then a client, having given a perfectly good answer to a question, then fouls up adding the words…. I think, or I guess. By adding these two little words the client has just diluted a good answer, and opens the door for more questions by the opposing lawyer.
LISTENING means critical listening. The reason to carefully listen to the question is that an attorney is bound by his question. If the question is poorly drafted he is stuck with the answer to that poorly drafted question. A good example to remember is the following poorly worded question, “What month were you born?” Now, we all know that the question should have been “What is your birth date?”, but the correct answer would be to give the attorney what he asked for which is the month in which you were born. The witness’ job is to answer questions posed, not help the opposing attorney.
Please remember that the EBT is not a friendly dialogue among friends, but an adversarial proceeding. Each question must be carefully weighed before answering and each answer must be verbalized. A question cannot be answered by a nod of the head.
If you don’t understand the question, ask that it be repeated. It does not matter how long the EBT takes or how many times the attorney must rephrase the question. Do not answer a question that you do not understand. Don’t guess at an answer. If you do not know the answer say so.
In every EBT there comes a time where the witness is asked for a numerical response. Such as, “how far was the ……?” “How many times did you see Dr. X……….?” Instead of using numbers to describe distances it is much better to point to something in the room which is equal to the distance and allow the attorneys to agree on a number of feet. If longer distance are to be described you may use car lengths or blocks. Always start your answer with “I’m not sure exactly but…” , or, “I think it was approximately…”. With the number of visits to a particular doctor start with “I am not sure exactly. I think it was approximately…”
You must remain at top form during the EBT . Therefore, it is good to have breakfast or a light lunch to give you energy before the EBT begins. If need be, ask for a break to go to the bathroom, get a drink or to stretch. The one rule is that you cannot ask for a break, even to talk to your lawyer, if there is an open question. First answer the question then take a break. If your injury prevents you from sitting for too long a period of time, you can tell the other side that you wish to continue with the EBT but would like to stand for a period of time to allow your back [or other part of your body] to stop hurting. The stenographer will record this statement and you will be permitted to proceed with the EBT.
Understand that how you answer the questions at the EBT is as important as to what the content of the answer is. The attorney for the defendant will prepare a report for the insurance company as to your demeanor and competence as a witness. He will evaluate for the insurance company as to the type of impression you would make before a jury. If you come across as arrogant, snide, belligerent, etc., these traits will over ride even the best of answers.
You have the right to remain in the room after your EBT to listen to us question the defendant on issues of liability. It will be your choice.
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