The injured party (Plaintiff’s) deposition is a most critical part of every personal injury case. This article will discuss how the attorney should best prepare for it.
One of the key elements in every case is that the attorney for the Plaintiff should have all of the injured party’s medical records before he allows his client to be deposed. Hopefully, he or she obtained them earlier in the case, but if treatment is ongoing, new records need to be obtained promptly so they can be reviewed by the attorney and shared with the client.
It’s important to obtain medical records going back for several years before the accident in any serious case, because the insurance defense attorney will always ask about past medical issues that relate to the area of injury in dispute.
Once all the records are obtained, they should be summarized in outline form. We use the program, NoteMap , but there are other good outlining programs as well. A word processor simply doesn’t cut it when summarizing medical records as the structure of the treatment by provider is not clearly shown and it makes it more difficult to make sense and quickly scroll to a medical issue in question.
When outlining medical records, it is useful to have Stedman’s medical dictionary close by or an equivalent as well as a book of
cross-sectional anatomy that details body parts in context of their position within the body. Surface Anatomy books simply
don’t cut it.
If unusual medical issues are present, the attorney should do a Medline or Paperchase search and find medical articles that
support his theory of the case.
In most serious cases, it’s valuable also to make a timeline of events in the case. With a program such as Timemap, one can easily color code various types of pain, different specialists who have treated the Plaintiff, or various categories of medications that were given to the patient throughout the case.
Next, the attorney should revisit the scene of the accident, so he can understand all the details that can make or break a case.
He should have the police report and statement of the witnesses and photographs with him as he refreshes his memory of the scene.
All this information will become useful when he meets with the client to prepare him or her.
Any discovery responses of Plaintiff or Defendant should be reviewed and the Answer and Jury Instructions showing the ultimate elements to be proved should be reviewed.
The above are the basics. In catastrophic cases, there is much more ot be done, but an attorney having a routine of performing the above actions will find he is ahead of 95 percent of his peers.
The attorney should schedule a meeting with the client to go over all of the above and leave adequate time to prepare the client so the client does not feel rushed.
My preference is to meet the client a few days in advance of the deposition, often over dinner, and to take the time to ensure the client is very familiar with the documents in the file as well as with the issues in the case. The meeting with the client can take as little as an hour in a soft tissue case, to as much as 8-10 hours spead over several days in a catastrophic injury case.
The details of how to explain to the cleint the details of answering questions at deposition, will be left to another day.
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