Understanding the Professional Liability Claim Process: Part 4, Giving a Deposition
Our series on understanding the claim process is intended to give you a basic knowledge of the legal process and guidance that can help you if you find yourself in a position of defending a malpractice claim.
In Part 4 of our series, we discuss what to expect when giving a deposition.
Part 4: What to expect when giving a deposition
When giving a deposition, you’ll be seated at a table with your attorney and the claimant’s attorney. You’ll be under oath and the opposing attorney will ask you questions related to the claim at hand. The questioning will be recorded by a court reporter.
Giving a deposition can be scary, but if you know what to expect, you can put yourself more at ease.
One of the key components to handling a deposition successfully is preparation. Your attorney should meet with you well before your deposition to fill you in on the issues that are likely to be the focus of the questions you’ll be asked. Your attorney will want you to feel as comfortable as possible during the deposition. If your attorney does not initiate this preparation time with you, take it upon yourself to request these important preparation sessions.
There are two common questioning approaches a plaintiff’s attorneys generally will take when interrogating a witness. Either they’ll be sly and pretend to be your friend to calm your nerves or they’ll attempt to intimidate you by yelling. Whichever the case, their objective is to get you to say something you otherwise wouldn’t. Both techniques have proven to be successful ploys for attorneys, and identifying the approach being used can be to your advantage. Your goal is to maintain your composure and answer the questions according to your preparation with your attorney.
As you’re asked a question, be sure to stop and think before you answer—don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. It’s important to fully understand the question, and if you don’t, it’s your responsibility to ask for clarification. Take a few extra seconds to stop and formulate your answer, then proceed with answering. This bit of time also allows your attorney to object to a question before you answer if he or she feels it is irrelevant to the case.
It’s Your Meeting
The important thing to remember about a deposition is that without you, the meeting would not even be taking place. In truth, the deposition is your meeting and, therefore, it is your prerogative to ask that a question be repeated, request clarification of a question, or simply ask for a break from questioning for a bit.
The plaintiff’s attorneys will try to make you think that they are in control, but if you focus on the fact that you have the control and he or she does not, you’ll have an easier time in what can be an intimidating setting.
Giving a deposition is an unfamiliar situation for most people that we hope you will never have to experience. But if you do, having even a basic understanding of the process and practices should help you through with some success.
In the next and final part in our series we will cover what you should expect when preparing for trial and giving testimony.
Our article series on understanding the legal process includes these informative topics:
Part 1: License/Certification Scrutiny
Part 3: What is the discovery process?