pain journal

5 Things To Remember During Your Personal Injury Deposition

Sitting across the table from a lawyer that represents the insurance company for your personal injury case can be intimidating. Fortunately, with a little preparation and sound legal representation, you have nothing to worry about.

Sitting across the table from a lawyer that represents the insurance company for your personal injury case can be intimidating. Fortunately, with a little preparation and sound legal representation, you have nothing to worry about.

Following a car accident in which you are injured, you may at some point have your deposition taken by an attorney that represents the insurance company that insures the at-fault party. This can be a nerve wracking experience for anyone. With any luck, your personal injury attorney will help prepare you for what to expect. No matter what the symptoms or cause of your injury, your deposition is an important part of your case, and understanding how to best answer the questions asked of you is something you should take seriously.

With a little preparation, you can rest assured your deposition will go smoothly. A deposition is sworn testimony. This means you will literally raise your right hand before answering the questions and swear to tell the truth. A certified court reporter will ask this of you. Be advised that the deposition may be recorded on video as well. While the format is basically a conversation or interview, the importance of your answers cannot be understated: your deposition will be typed up in a word-for-word document that becomes part of the official record on your case, meaning it can (and likely will) be presented at trial. You should therefore prepare for your deposition as if you were preparing to answer the same questions before a judge and jury in a courtroom.

We have prepared five things you should remember when preparing for your deposition. This is not official legal advice, and we urge you to seek legal counsel and/or representation by an attorney in order to understand the details specific to your case.

Answer the Question and STOP Talking

Most lawyers agree that the shorter your answer to a deposition question, the better. Keep it simple. Remember that although you are sitting across from an attorney, the result of the deposition is a written transcript. The deposition transcript is written in the following format:

Attorney: What color was the car?

Respondent (You): Blue

The range of questions the attorney on the other side of the table asks you is essentially unlimited. The attorney may appear to be your best friend, or may come off as mean and combative - you never know and it does not really matter. End of the day, the attorney asking you the questions is not your friend - his or her job is to chip away at your case and find weaknesses or inconsistencies in your version of events. This can be tricky, as many of the questions you will be asked are not difficult, and there’s no room for error, such as ‘what is your birthdate,” or “where were you born?” But some questions are not so simple. For example, “explain to me the symptoms of you injuries.”

In short, you should listen to the question you are asked, and pause for a second before answering. What was the question? Answer only that question, and wait for the attorney to ask you another question. It is easy to get into “conversation mode,” where you feel like you are just having a normal conversation, back-and-forth, with the attorney. This is especially challenging when you get along well with the attorney, who may be very friendly towards you. Remember: answer the question asked of you, and stop talking! The more you talk, the better for the attorney on the other side of the table. If you remember just one tip, remember this: answer the question and stop talking!

The format of your personal injury deposition does not change based on location - your case might be Orange County, the Central Coast, or San Diego - it doesn’t matter.

The format of your personal injury deposition does not change based on location - your case might be Orange County, the Central Coast, or San Diego - it doesn’t matter.

Don’t Volunteer Information

The attorney asking you questions can basically ask you whatever he or she wants. Your attorney will be there, but your attorney won’t be doing much talking. Again, this is not a normal conversation, but rather an opportunity for the insurance company’s lawyers to chip away at your case, which ultimately means less money in your settlement. You may feel the urge to explain yourself, or give your version of events.

Listen to your lawyer, as he or she is well versed in injury law and will help you understand when you should feel free to give your version of what happened, and when you should keep quiet. We have a tendency to try to be defensive if we feel our opinions or position on an issue is being attacked. The fact that you are sitting in a conference room answering questions to an attorney for an injury you incurred through no fault of your own might be offensive, even angering to you. But don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Remember, if your attorney guides you to share more information in a particular line of questioning, feel free to do so. Otherwise, don’t volunteer information, even if in your mind you feel like it is completely harmless and can only help you.

Not Your Friend

Defense lawyers (as with all lawyers) come in all shapes and sizes, and most importantly, their personalities are not always predictable. You may be imagining a scary, intimidating older man, or perhaps a sharp and mean lady. This may be who you are sitting across the table from. But don’t be surprised if the attorney is the opposite of what you imagined. Maybe he or she is younger, more attractive, friendlier, or however you say it, a lot more likable than what you were expecting. We tend to talk more easily when we are with people we get along with, so don’t be surprised if the attorney talks with you in a way that makes you very comfortable. Don’t get too comfortable, and remember, he or she is doing their job, and you’re unlikely to meet this attorney again. Just because you are having a good time talking to the attorney, or you feel he or she is really on your side, doesn’t mean this person won’t hurt your case, or weaken it. That is his or her job. Remember that the defense attorney is not your friend.

A deposition may be one step you have to go through to get to the light at the end of the tunnel on your personal injury case. In most injury cases, this is a step that helps lawyers on both sides prepare for trial, or expedite the settlement of your case.

A deposition may be one step you have to go through to get to the light at the end of the tunnel on your personal injury case. In most injury cases, this is a step that helps lawyers on both sides prepare for trial, or expedite the settlement of your case.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

There is a reason the attorney is asking you the questions he or she is asking you. Don’t try to figure it out. Some of the questions regarding your injury will make sense. Some won’t. Do not waste your time engaging in mind games, trying to understand what the other attorney is trying to get at, or trying to get you to say. At the same time, don’t assume the questions are not important. You should be concise in your answers, and answer truthfully, but you should not try to add information in an effort to “fight back.” Leave that to your injury lawyer, who will have experience in understanding what the other attorney is doing, and why.

If you feel like you want to talk to your lawyer, you can at any time ask to step into the hall. Most defense lawyers will ask that you first answer the last question they asked you, and then step into the hall. But you may sense that you are uncomfortable with the direction the questioning is going. This is normal. Feel free to take a bathroom break, ask to speak with your injury lawyer in the hall, or go “off the record” whenever you want.

Don’t be surprised if you are answering questions for many hours. For the first two or three hours, you may feel like your deposition is a breeze. But five or six hours in, you may find yourself somewhat exhausted. This is often by design. Again, you do not need to figure the whole process out. In fact, because you are not an injury attorney, you’ll never be able to learn all the nuances necessary to understand exactly what is going on. This takes years and years of practice, and you would first have to handle thousands of injury cases to pick up on the trends, tricks, and traps. Trust the counsel of your lawyer, and he or she will guide you through the entire process and help you get through your deposition testimony without unnecessary stress or anxiety.

Your Deposition is Not a Conversation

Finally, remember that you are not just chatting casually with an attorney about how you were hurt. Defense lawyers are building their case against you, even if the lawyer sitting on the other side of the table has a smile on his or her face. Remember that you have sworn to tell the truth, and that every word you say will be transcribed (typed) and made into a small booklet that can be used at trial. Don’t get carried away talking too much. Listen to your lawyer, and answer only the question asked of you, one at a time. Take a moment after each question to think about what was actually asked, and provide a basic, brief answer. If you remember that the court reporter is typing every word, you will speak more slowly, which is good for everyone. Don’t interrupt the attorney who is asking you questions.

“Don’t Get Screwed”

This information is not official legal counsel, and you should not rely on it exclusively. These tips were compiled by plaintiff’s attorneys at The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C., a law firm that helps injured people get fair money for their pain and suffering. The Lions are based in Orange County, California, but represent plaintiffs throughout the state of California, from San Diego all the way to the Oregon border, and everywhere in between. If you have questions regarding your injury or your case, feel free to call The Lions today. You will speak with a lawyer, not a salesperson, and your call is free of charge.

Car Crash Injury? Keep a Pain Journal

A lazy injury lawyer will get you enough money to pay for your medical bills and perhaps a bit more. A good injury lawyer will get you money to compensate for the ways in which your life is now different than it was before.

A lazy injury lawyer will get you enough money to pay for your medical bills and perhaps a bit more. A good injury lawyer will get you money to compensate for the ways in which your life is now different than it was before.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and are recovering from your injuries, you may notice that your symptoms are worse some days, and better others. This is typical for most people, and with any luck you won’t have to get involved in a lawsuit in order to get a fair settlement for your car crash case. However, even in pre-litigation (when your attorney is negotiating on your behalf with the insurance company of the at-fault driver), insurance companies’ default position is that you’re only as injured or hurt as the paperwork says you are. That means that if it isn’t documented over time, you are not really injured.

Pain and suffering includes changes to your lifestyle. If you were active before, and can no longer do what you previously enjoyed due to someone else's negligence, a good injury lawyer can help compensate you for this loss.

Pain and suffering includes changes to your lifestyle. If you were active before, and can no longer do what you previously enjoyed due to someone else's negligence, a good injury lawyer can help compensate you for this loss.

What is a Pain Journal?

Your documentation of the pain you experience as a result of your car crash does not need to be anything fancy. In fact, writing notes in a simple notebook is enough. The most important thing is that you document regularly how you feel, and the affect it has on your life. For example, if you have a particularly difficult day, and have to cancel a social event, or forego a planned activity, this should be documented. Many pain journals are simple hand-written entries on a couple sheets of paper. In California, there are so many car crashes and subsequent injury claims, that you need to show the at-fault driver's insurance company that your injuries are real, affect your daily life, and did not simply disappear overnight. 

As part of your injury claim, you should include the ways in which your lifestyle has been affected. For people who previously lived an active lifestyle, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the things they can no longer do.

As part of your injury claim, you should include the ways in which your lifestyle has been affected. For people who previously lived an active lifestyle, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the things they can no longer do.

How Frequently Should You Update It?

Because your pain journal is an informal document, there is no rule of thumb to follow as far as how often you should update it. However, the more often you can write down specific instances of pain, and how it affects your lifestyle, work, or ability to parent, these things should be written down. If you are seeking medical treatment for an injury, you should be updating your pain journal at least a couple times a week. As time goes on, your pain journal will show how your symptoms are improving, if they are improving. This can also help show that you were compliant in following doctors' recommendations and orders. As the cost of your medical treatment rises, the insurance company will be looking for reasons to deny paying your medical bills. When a plaintiff has a thorough journal showing how the injury has affected his or her life, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other party's attorneys to say you weren't hurt and they shouldn't have to pay for your medical expenses.

A pain journal does not need to be fancy. Keep track of the days you feel worse than usual, and document days when you're feeling better. This will be of great value to your injury law firm as they negotiate on your behalf.

A pain journal does not need to be fancy. Keep track of the days you feel worse than usual, and document days when you're feeling better. This will be of great value to your injury law firm as they negotiate on your behalf.

Why Does it Help?

Your case is one of tens of thousands that insurance adjusters will review. If necessary, your attorney may have to file a lawsuit on your behalf, and will have to prove that you were injured by someone else, and that your injuries have affected your lifestyle. As part of the process of determining the value of your case, or in other words, how much money you are likely to be paid as a settlement, your medical records will make up one portion of your claim, and your pain and suffering will make up the second part of the evaluation. 

Orange County is home to a beautiful coast - if you previously enjoyed days at the beach, but have had to cut back on your leisure activities due to an injury, a good Orange County injury lawyer will help compensate you for this change in your lifestyle.

Orange County is home to a beautiful coast - if you previously enjoyed days at the beach, but have had to cut back on your leisure activities due to an injury, a good Orange County injury lawyer will help compensate you for this change in your lifestyle.

What is 'Pain and Suffering'

The laws in California provide for compensation for your pain and suffering, which is sometimes called your general damages. So if you were injured in a California car crash, and you are seeking a claim against the driver who hit you, you will have two parts to your claim: special damages (the "hard costs", such as your medical bills and other things you paid out of pocket for), and general damages (hard to put a number on, but the value of your pain and suffering). The more you can prove you were injured, the better position your injury lawyer will be in to win more money for you. For example, if you had a hobby you can no longer participate in, or if your exercise routine was disrupted or changed as a result of the car injury, you are entitled to pain and suffering damages for the negative affect the accident has had on your lifestyle. All these things are unique to your case, and of course specific to your lifestyle. But it is not enough to simply state that you've missed out, or your life has changed. You need documentation, and a pain journal can be of great assistance to your lawyer as he or she fights for your case.

Assessing General Damages (Pain and Suffering)

Orange County residents who were injured in a car crash have many options of injury lawyers to choose from. 

Orange County residents who were injured in a car crash have many options of injury lawyers to choose from. 

Your personal injury lawyer will be explaining the many ways in which your life has been affected by your injury. This may include anything from a sport you can no longer play, to difficulties caring for your children, to discomfort in a variety of situations unique to your life as a result of someone else's negligence. Because it is not as simple as adding up receipts and claiming the total, you must be specific in explaining to your injury lawyer the ways in which your life has been affected. He or she will then argue these points on your behalf. A good injury lawyer in California will be able to compare the types of losses you have incurred with similar cases in the past. An injury law firm that has handled a lot of cases and is paying attention to trends in the courts will be in the best position to fight for maximum value for your car crash injury case.