Tips For Preserving Your Case Through The Oral Discovery Phase

Law Blog

If you are being sued because you caused a vehicle accident, then you will be expected to provide answers to written questions known as interrogatories and then answer oral questions in a meeting known as a deposition. Since your lawyer will type up the interrogatory answers for you, they will protect your case by responding with brief and accurate answers. However, when the day arrives for your deposition meeting, you will have to answer the questions yourself. You will be under oath and you should expect that anything you might say will be used against you in court. A court reporter will be present and transcripts of your deposition will be provided to everyone involved in the case.

Since you don't want to inadvertently damage your case by saying the wrong thing during your deposition, follow these tips:

Tip: Give Only Short But Factual Answers

When the plaintiff's lawyer asks you questions during your deposition, you are required by law to truthfully answer them. If you refuse to answer the questions or are not forthcoming with the information being asked for, then the plaintiff's attorney will use that against you in court.

However, giving factual answers does not mean answering what the attorney:

  • could have asked you
  • should have asked you
  • would have asked you 

For example, if you are asked if you were drinking before the accident, then your answer should be "yes" or "no" whatever is correct. But, you do not want to answer with extraneous information, such as; "Yes, I was drinking. I had five drinks and played pool."

The short answer of "yes" simply tells everyone what they already likely knew from the written discovery phase. However, you may be giving them more ammunition to use against you in court if they didn't know how many drinks you drank and that you played pool. Stick to short and truthful answers to prevent sharing unnecessary information.

Tip: Don't Answer Any Questions Until You Clearly Understand What You Are Being Asked

Just as you want to avoid providing extraneous information during your deposition, so too do you want to avoid answering any questions before you are clear what is being asked. For example, if the plaintiff's attorney asks you if you take drugs, this is a very open-ended question. Do they mean illegal drugs? Ove-the-counter medications? Physician prescribed medications?

For this type of broad question that is meant to get you to disclose extra information about your life that may or may not be pertinent to the case, ask your lawyer before answering.


19 August 2017