Tips For Accident Victims Who Are Being Deposed

The deposition of the plaintiff, the accident victim, is an important event in a personal injury suit.  Don’t wing it.  Be prepared.  Here are a few tips gleaned from Leonard Bucklin’s Trial Notebook. 

  • Slow down — listen to the question. Pay full attention to the question.
  • Answer the actual question, and stop.
  • Talk with confidence.
  • Speak to the camera, not to the attorney.
  • Keep it short.

Most depositions which take place today are videotaped.  It is important not to engage in distracting actions during the deposition.  Look at the camera when answering questions. Remember that the camera most of the time will show only your head and shoulders and the wall immediately behind you. The camera will not usually show the attorneys asking the questions or anything else except your head. Think of a TV interview in which for an hour all you saw on the screen is a “talking head.” This is a “one-camera viewpoint.” This one-camera viewpoint can be boring for people watching the video — unless you are looking at the camera just as though you were talking to a friend.

The one-camera viewpoint means that the place you look most of the time when you are talking, answering the question, is to the camera. Do not look at the attorney asking the question, because he/she will not even be in the picture.

You can look at the attorney asking a question, to pay good attention to what the actual question is. But when you answer, most of the time turn your head back and look at the camera.

Think if you saw a TV interview, or a newscast, in which the person was not talking to the camera but rather talking to someone off to the side of the camera. Looking at the side of a person’s head in a one-camera format for an hour is very boring.  Look at the camera, because it is the camera to which you are speaking.

Sit up straight. Remember what you see on TV newscasts. The newscasters know how to communicate information. You do not see the news being delivered by someone slouching in a chair or with his head on his hand. Do like the newscasters do — sit up straight and keep your hands away from your face.

Look at the camera when you are talking. Do not look down at papers and answer a question at the same time. If you are a “talking head” in the camera shot, people cannot see that you are looking down at papers on the table. In the video you appear to be just looking down without reason. People will wonder if you are embarrassed or “shifty.” Besides, the jury will lose eye contact with you, and it will be harder for them to pay attention to what you are saying. So look the camera in the eye when answering the question, just as though it was a neighbor of yours and you are explaining the facts to them.

Never look at papers if an attorney is asking you a question. Listen to the attorney. You cannot pay full attention to the question if you are looking at papers that are on the table in front of you.

Look at the attorney when you are listening. Turn your head and eyes naturally to look at the attorney when the attorney asks you a question. You need to do that to really understand the question. Give the jury the respect of looking interested in what is going on, and respectfully listening to the person asking the question. Then turn to look at the camera to answer the question. You do not see newscasters looking down at papers and talking. You see them looking at the person talking and then looking back to the camera when they are talking.

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