If you have a slip and fall case, and you file a lawsuit, you will have to attend a deposition, so it helps to have an idea of how depositions work, and the kinds of questions to expect.
The Deposition in a Slip and Fall Case
A deposition is a procedure in which you typically go to the defense attorney’s office and answer questions under oath about the case. These questions are asked primarily by the defense attorney.
A deposition is a very important event in any kind of civil lawsuit, for two reasons. First, it allows the defense attorney to really figure out what your claims are all about. Although by the time the deposition takes place you will have answered written questions (interrogatories) and provided documents to the defense attorney, there is no substitute for face-to-face questioning to find out someone’s story. And second, it is typically the defense attorney's first chance to meet you and size you up as a witness. This is more important than you might think. Even if you have a great case, but you are just not a good witness, the insurer is going to offer you less money because it will assume that you won’t make a good witness in the eyes of the jury if your case makes it to trial.
Learn more about What Happens at a Personal Injury Deposition.
Common Questions at Slip and Fall Depositions
So what types of questions will a defense attorney typically ask the plaintiff in a slip and fall case? Depositions in personal injury cases are typically divided into several parts: background questions, how the accident happened, and the plaintiff’s damages and injuries, including the plaintiff’s medical history.
Background questions are typically all about the plaintiff’s educational, family, military, and employment background, as well as whether the plaintiff has a criminal record.
How the accident happened will be the key focus of the deposition. This is where you tell the defense attorney exactly how you got hurt. You will have to explain in exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) detail every minute aspect of the incident. As an example of this line of questioning, let’s look at what the plaintiff would likely be asked in a claim where the slip and fall occurred on accumulated ice:
- What were you wearing on your feet?
- What were you carrying in your hands?
- Where were you looking while you were walking?
- Were you looking down?
- Do you customarily look down when you walk?
- If you weren’t looking down, why weren’t you looking down?
- Wouldn't you say that it's safer to look down when you walk?
- Exactly where did you slip?
- Which foot slipped?
- How did it slip?
- How did you fall?
- Which part of your body struck the ground first?
- Which other parts of your body struck the ground?
- Did you know there was ice in that area?
- Had you seen the ice?
- How long before the incident had you seen the ice?
- Why did you walk in an area where you knew there was ice?
And so on and so on. You will probably feel drained after a thorough deposition. You may even feel like you now have no idea how you slipped and fell. The key to making sure you're a good deposition witness in a slip and fall case is to practice, practice, practice with your lawyer beforehand.
The third section of a slip and fall deposition (although questions can be asked in any order) will cover the plaintiff’s medical history, damages, and injuries. With respect to medical history, defense attorneys typically ask you to describe your entire medical history, even things that would seem to have no relationship to your slip and fall injury. For example, they might ask, “What is the name of every health care provider that you have seen in the past fifteen years?” You should rely on your lawyer to decide if these questions are reasonable, too invasive, or irrelevant.
For questions about the plaintiff’s injuries and damages, the defense attorney wants to know how the slip and fall affected you, including not just injuries but the overall impact on your life:
- What were your injuries?
- Identify every health care provider you saw in connection with this incident.
- What were your complaints and symptoms?
- How did your complaints and symptoms change over time?
- When did you start getting better?
- Have you fully recovered?
- When did you feel fully recovered?
- If you are not fully recovered, what activities can you no longer do?
- What are your restrictions?
- Who paid your medical bills?
- How long were you out of work? What is your lost earnings claim?
- How did this injury affect your life?