Gary: Okay, today we’re talking about depositions. Brad, let’s explain to everybody the total picture, the big picture. You have depositions, but it’s part of a process. The first part of the process is you have the crash and then the insurance company won’t settle, so let’s explain how this comes up and how these depositions work.
Brad: It’s a natural process of the legal procedures. Both plaintiffs and defendants should take depositions. You’re going to find it more likely that the defense is going to want a deposition than the plaintiff sometimes because sometimes all the plaintiff is having to prove, as far as information from the other side, is that they’re responsible for causing the accident. I think the plaintiff’s lawyers should try and delve a little deeper sometimes into what’s going on, but they’re trying to prove the defendant caused the accident and, if it’s an admitted liability, there may not be as much of a need to be going after the defendant who caused the accident.
Of course, you may want to talk to the defendant’s defense doctors who we talked about last week in [inaudible 00:03:55] deposition, but basically when the attorney on the other side, the defense attorney, the insurance company’s hired defense lawyer, whom you don’t get to know or the jury doesn’t get to know they’re hired by the insurance company, when they want to talk to you, they have to do it by virtue of a deposition.
What they’re going to do is it’s going to be a question-and-answer situation. They’re going to ask you questions. You’re going to do an answer. If you turn it into a casual interview, you’ve got it wrong. That’s not the way it should be. There’s certain rules, certain requirements, certain things you should look into. If your lawyer doesn’t prepare you for a deposition, then you should leave the lawyer. You should not let the deposition happen without being prepared. Most definitely, if the lawyer hasn’t prepared you and tries to get you to go deposition without significant, and I mean significant preparation, then you should find a new lawyer.
Gary: Right. You need to understand the entire process. By the time you get to a deposition, you’ve hired attorneys. They’ve worked hard to try and get your case settled, or they should have. They worked hard to get your case settled. Some cases are exceptions. Some are not going to settle and so there’s no use to do it, but that’s in the attorney’s judgment and I’ve seen that in my career many, many times.
In the normal case, the general rule is you try to get the case resolved as settled, but many times the insurance companies, especially in head injury cases, traumatic brain injury kind of cases, they said they don’t believe it, “It’s an invisible injury. We don’t believe you can prove it. We don’t believe you’re injured. We believe you’re making this up. We believe you’re faking it and therefore we’re not going to pay you.”
In the beginning, you have to try to settle the case, but the point I want to make today on depositions is depositions come later in the litigation process, but first thing I want to talk about is how do you get there? Why do you get there? Why is this necessary to do because we’ve given you examples before. You’re injured. Let’s say, your medical bills are $20,000. That doesn’t cover your physical injuries. That doesn’t cover your pain and suffering. Your medical bills are 20 grand, the insurance company says, “We’re going to offer you $8,000. Take it or leave it.” Then what do you do, Brad?
Brad: Well, what you do is you file a lawsuit and you go to court and you’re going to have to go after the insurance company. Insurance companies are very upset about some of the rules that apply. They always love the rules that they get, but they don’t like the rules the plaintiff gets. A lot of times in the negotiation process, they will simply ignore those rules. They’ll ignore what the law says you are entitled to recover and they’ll do what they think they want to pay you and so a lot of times that’s in fact true.
The charges, the medical charges, may be 10, 15, $20,000 and they’ll offer you less than the medical charges to settle your case. They know darn good and well when they get to court, they have to pay what the medical charges are, but they don’t care. They’ll offer you less. Of course, a lot of it they consider is, “Let’s see you go to court. Let’s see you get a lawyer. We don’t think you’re going to get a lawyer. Let’s see what your lawyer is willing to do. Let’s see if your lawyer even understands and knows what’s supposed to happen.”
We’re talking about depositions. Once they get the lawsuit going, the insurance company then has some different reasons or the defense lawyer has some different reasons on how and why they want to depose you, but there are certain basic ones that we know they’re using it for.
Gary: Exactly. You know, this is an ongoing process, but how you get to the deposition time, how you get to the deposition process, who’s going to take it? You get there because you’ve already tried to resolve the case. The insurance company’s put it in your face and said, “No.” We just give you an example. Medical bills $20,000. The most they’re going to offer you is $8,000, take it or leave it. Well, you can’t take that. That’s not paying you for any of your other injuries, damages, and losses. They’re just hoping on a percentage statistical basis most people will take it, run and go, and they can’t even pay their medical bills then, but they hope they take it. Some people do. Some people never see a lawyer.
You know, the insurance companies own statistics show that they pay more money out to people once a person hires an attorney. They don’t want to tell you that, but that’s from their own statistics and reports say and do. All right, we’re not going to go through the history of that right now. That’s an entirely different subject, an entirely different show.
Now, you’re forced … Think about that. You’re forced to file a lawsuit. You didn’t want to file a lawsuit. In our firm, we try not to file lawsuits, but sometimes, as they say, it’s in your face, and you have to file the lawsuit. Then you have to sue the person who hit you. You have to sue the person who hit you, then as Brad mentioned earlier in the show, the insurance company for the person who hit you, hires the attorneys. The person who hit you doesn’t pay for anything. They don’t pay for a settlement, a judgment. They don’t pay for their own attorneys. The insurance company pays for the attorneys and you cannot bring that up in trial. Then during this process, the insurance company attorneys then request your deposition.
Brad: Right. That’s the only way they’re going to get to talk to you. They will have, quite often, some written discovery already in their hands where they’ve asked you questions and gotten answers, but it’s hard to write everything into an answer, so they realize they need to ask questions. They will have, quite often, the statement you gave to the adjuster if the adjuster came out and got a statement from you or called you and got a recorded statement or statement from you before you got an attorney. We’ve talked about that. You should not give those statements. They will have those in their possession.
Now they’re armed with certain things when they’re sitting down to talk to you and they’re talking to you, a major reason, I’d say the primary reason, is to gather evidence they can use against you. They’ll tell you, “Oh, we need to get to know who you are and see what you’re about and get more detail on the questions and get more information so we can see if we can settle the case,” but really what they’re doing is they’re trying to find ways to trap you, to get you into saying things. They’ve got their little book of questions. They know if you answer certain ways with certain definitive responses, they’re going to be able to get you and put you into a trap where more than likely they’re going to be able to stand up, at least in front of a jury, and say, “This person’s a liar,” or you don’t tell the truth.
Gary: That’s how they try to do it and so you need to be prepared. You need to understand the areas they’re going to go into. Now, if you become a client, most of our books we give away to the public, you can ask, but this one you have to be a client of Bell & Pollock, our law firm. We have a book, On Your Deposition, and it explains to you various matters about your deposition, but that’s attorney-client privilege. You have to be a client, but there is such a book in our office. We’ve drafted it. It’s taken years to get all the important elements into the book and we’ve got a book on depositions.
Now, Brad was just explaining to you the deposition process. Some of the questions they ask you are bent on finding out who you are. Some of the questions they ask you are trying to trick you. We’ve got a break coming up, but after the break we’re going to tell you some of these questions or some of the approaches these defense lawyers, these defense lawyers who represent the person who hit you, these defense lawyers who are paid by the insurance company, some of the questions they’re going to ask you.
Gary: What you see is what you get. What you don’t hear is everything. Let’s talk about silence. Old-fashioned silence. What does silence have to do with injuries? I’m going to give you about three seconds of silence. Here you go. Silence is what you get just before a collision. Sometimes in accidents fast turns to slow and noise turns to silence. Then the collision. Then the injuries. Then the life-changing event. Then starts the battle with the insurance company.
Our telephone number, 303-795-5900. As always, anytime, anywhere, our website championsofthepeople.com. Don’t forget about the feature, if you’ve just joined us, on our website called, “Meeting by Accident”. You can get the answers to the most commonly-asked questions people ask when they’re involved in a car crash. How cool is that?
Okay, today we’re talking about depositions. Remember, right in the first part of the show, we talked about the fact that the insurance company won’t pay you a fair amount. They won’t even pay you for your medical bills. They could. They have the money, they have the policy owner’s coverage. They won’t do it so they force you to file a lawsuit. In the lawsuit, they’re going to take your deposition. If you become a client of Bell & Pollock, we have a book we can give you, we do give you, with regard to educating you and telling you about depositions.
However, today on the show we’re talking about generalities on depositions and you know, Brad, one of the favorite questions that we’ve seen defense lawyers paid by the insurance company ask you, the injured victim, is, “Have you ever had a knee problem?” That’s an example. “Have you ever had a neck problem before?”
Brad: Right. Now, if this is asked in an interrogatory, we object and say, “It’s too far removed. You’re asking too far back. You can’t just say, “A knee problem.”” For many of you, when I say, “Have you ever had a back problem?”, all of you are thinking, “Well, maybe I’ve had a back problem, but is it the lower, middle, upper back?” There’s all sorts of qualifiers to that kind of question.
The defense lawyer is using it to get information and to get testimony and to get stuff that they can trick you on, they can trap you on. All the defense lawyers out there listening and all the insurance adjusters out there listening, in your heart of hearts when you’re sitting there you know darn good and well that’s exactly what you’re doing because it’s like this.
You’re in a car accident and your knee goes into the dashboard and it messes up your knee and you need a surgery on your knee and you get a surgery on your knee. You’re trying to get compensation for the money that was charged for the knee injury, for the knee surgery, and you’ll also want to get compensation for the problems it’s going to cause you, the least of which is you’re going to have a problem with that knee for the rest of your life or you’re going to have some residual problems. The next thing you know, you’re sitting in a deposition and the defense lawyer looks at you and says, “Have you ever had problems with your knee before?”
Gary: Before the accident.
Brad: Before the accident. “Have you ever had any kind of problem with your knee before?” They’re hoping you’ll say no. They’re hoping because now that opens up the door for them to start searching through every single medical record they can find going back as far as they hope they can go. If they can get your attorney to give 10 years’ worth of records, if they can get your attorney to give 20 years’ worth of records, or if you sign one of those releases to the insurance adjuster when the accident first happened giving them the right to get your medical records, they’ve gone back, hopefully, they’re hoping anyway, they’ve gone back to when you were 5 years old and when you were born and got all the medical records.
They’re hoping they can find that one thing where 9 years prior you had a bee sting on your knee or on your leg and you went into the doctor and said, “Hey, my knee’s hurting me.” Or they can find that time in high school when you did something and your knee had a little swelling and there was a little fluid on it so they can look and say, “You had previous injuries to your knee. You had previous problems to you knee. You said you didn’t. You’re a liar.”
Gary: Isn’t that wonderful? These are the attorneys paid for by the insurance company. Get that picture in your mind. Get it clearly in your mind. You’ve been injured. You had to file a lawsuit. They forced you to, then they blame it on you. Number one.
Number two, they get to the time of your deposition. They’ve got your medical records, the appropriate medical records if you’ve got the right attorney, the appropriate medical records and then they’re going to ask you questions. Then they ask you questions beyond the appropriate medical records as the one we’ve just covered. “Have you ever had a knee problem before? Have you ever had a back problem before?” I just have to tell you this. Some people don’t remember what they said to the doctor 6 years ago, 10 years ago, 11 years ago. They don’t even remember the bee sting in their knee. They don’t even remember the treatment.
I want to tell you something else. When we take these doctors’ depositions, the one the insurance companies hire to examine you and testify against you, when we take them, they’re there for a deposition. They have your records. You know what we ask them? One of the questions we ask them is, “Okay, what was the condition of the knee on June 3?” “I don’t know.” “Well, you can’t remember? That was 3 months ago. You can’t remember that?” “No.” They expect you to remember an entry in your medical records you probably never even saw 12 years ago and then they want to say, “Well, you’re a poor,” listen to these words very carefully, “You’re a poor records historian,” and they imply or state that you’re making this up and you’re lying.
Brad: Yeah. That you’re a poor records historian because, by gosh, of course you should remember this. What they do is they start weaving a web of trying to entangle you into these questions. That’s why you need, when the deposition’s going to occur, you need your attorney to sit down with you and you need your attorney to talk to you about how to deal with questions like this. You need your attorney to get you well-versed in what’s happening because depositions are fair game.
I have no problems with the fact that depositions occur. That’s fine. That’s part of the legal process. They should occur. It’s only right that the defense attorney sees you, talks to you, knows who you are, has an opportunity to understand what your life is about and how this has affected you. The problem is is that when the attorney starts on this edge and goes down this road, and they all do because they’ve all got these nice, pre-printed questions that they work off of, when they start down this edge of trying to trap you and sneakily work you into traps and playing games to try to make you look like a liar when it’s anything but that.
Gary: Right. We’ve just given you a sample question. It’s a tip of the iceberg, believe me. When you come in and you’re a client of Bell & Pollock, we get you prepared for depositions. I’ve seen attorneys in my career, especially on the defense side, meet their client, 30 minutes, 15 minutes before a deposition starts, have a general discussion with their client, and they’re good to go. They’re not good to go. That’s not good to go.
You need to be prepared. You need to understand what’s going to happen. You’ve got to tell the truth, but let the truth come out. Not be tricked by these questions of, “Did you have a knee problem? Did you ever complain of a new problem in the last 15 years? Did you ever complain of a neck problem? Have you ever seen a chiropractor?” “Well, yeah, I saw a chiropractor 11 years ago, but I used to get maintenance treatments.” “Well, maintenance treatments must mean you had a problem.” “No, I just wanted to be maintained. I wanted symmetry in my body alignment and I just got maintained.” “Well, did they treat your neck?” “I think so.” “Then you had previous neck problems.” “No, I didn’t.” Do you see how this goes? You need attorneys that understand this in advance.
Brad: They’ll even go so much as try and relate it to massages. “Oh, you went out and got massages. You got massages regularly.” “Yeah, well, you got massages because you’d have neck pain. You’d have headaches and you’d feel stiffness and soreness in your back and your neck and your head in those headaches?” “Yes.” “That’s why you got the massages?” “Yes.” “Well, then our accident didn’t cause it. This is something you’ve had.”
A bunch of you right now listening are going, “Yeah, that makes sense. The accident wouldn’t have if they’ve been getting that.” The point of it is it’s a different pain generator. It’s a different type of pain. It’s different on how it is affecting you. It’s different on how it’s going to allow you to do your work and your pleasure and your activities, daily living, and it’s different. The whole goal of the defense attorney is to try and throw it, that one little thing, in with the rest of the stuff in the jar, mix it all up so that by the time you’re in front of a jury, the jury can’t sort it out because that’s what a defense attorney does.
Gary: Right. All these things happen in depositions. Today, we’re talking about depositions, okay? We’re giving you a flavor of what you need to do, a flavor of what kind of attorney you need to hire for your injury case if you’re going to be injured and if you’re going to hire an attorney because now you’ve been forced into litigation. Now they’re going to take your deposition. This deposition, by rule, can last up to 7 hours. You better be prepared. You better know what you’re talking about and you better understand how they’re going to attack you.
That’s what we do at Bell & Pollock. You can call us anytime at 303-795-5900. In the mountains, you can call us at 970-870-8989 or just go to our website, championsofthepeople.com. I’m telling you, you need to understand this. You need to be prepared. You cannot be just thrown into the arena. You cannot just be thrown to the wolves. You cannot just be thrown into the game without having a game plan.
Think about this. You know, Brad, we don’t talk about this often, but think about the Broncos. Do they go into a game, next week’s game when they’re in season, without a game plan? Do they go into the game without a playbook? Do they go into a game without understanding what their blocking assignments are, running assignments are, passing routes are?
Brad: They certainly don’t. They’re going to make sure they’re prepared. One thing we’ve talked about and I know we’re going to go to break and have a few more minutes, but for many of you wondering what a deposition is, I think we’ve talked about it. This is a place where by proper notice and proper scheduling, you’re going to go into a room, you’re going to be sworn, put under oath, you’re going to be asked questions, questions you must answer unless you’ve been instructed not to, questions you must answer and which are going to be taken down by a reporter word for word. The question’s going to be taken down word for word, the answer’s taken down word for word that you’ve answered under oath.
Gary: Right. It’s a very important process.
Gary: Okay, deposition process. We’ve showed you how they try to trick you up on your medical records and that needs to be explored a lot. Another one they like to do is they like to trip you up on time and distance. You want to tell the truth. We always advise our clients to tell the truth, but you’ve got to not guess. If you’re guessing, you’re going to get to an area where it’s not going to be a healthy situation.
I want you to think about something. Just one second. They ask you time and distance. “When did you see this other driver?”, for example. “How much time elapsed by the time you saw the driver and hit you?” I mean, do you really know? If you say, “Well, you know, 5, 6 seconds.” Do you know how far a car can travel in 5, 6 seconds.
Brad: How long 5 or 6 seconds is. Sometimes, for some people when an accident like that happens, things slow down. They go into slow motion. It doesn’t mean you can act faster. It doesn’t mean you can react faster because you’re in slow motion with it. It slows down and all of a sudden your whole sense of timing is off. Your whole sense of distance is off. Your memory is off. The nightmares you’re having about it recreates the scene inaccurately. You’ve got to be very, very careful about what you say.
Gary: Right. What we always tell our client, to be truthful, be accurate, and if you’re accurate on measurements, fine. If you’re not accurate, if you’re guessing, there’s another way to approach it. It’s just that simple.
We just touched the tip of the iceberg today on depositions, but you better have attorneys that understand it, that know it, that are willing to help you and spend the time to help you through the case, and prepare you for these things, including depositions. Anytime, anywhere, go to our website, championsofthepeople.com or give us a call, 303-795-5900. Take advantage of our experience. Take advantage of our legal game plan, which we’ll give to you. We are Colorado’s premiere injury law firm and we are your champions of the people.