Legal Question in Admiralty Law in Florida

Good Lawyer?

I have a depostion coming up soon. Should I expect to have a meeting with my own lawyer before the depo. Should I have an estimate of how much he is going to ask for?

Asked on 4/10/09, 12:31 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

Alan Wagner Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore P.A.

Re: Good Lawyer?

Yes you shuld have a meeting to prepare for your deposition and yes you should have some idea of what the case is aboput and what you are asking for (or an explanation of why that estimation cannot be given).

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Answered on 4/10/09, 12:52 pm
Steve Gordon Gordon & Elias, L.L.P.

Re: Good Lawyer? POST 1 of 3

Dear Good Lawyer?


GOOD QUESTION!!! Pardon me if I ramble a bit in my answer.

There are two areas where a Plaintiff (you) can mess up his/her personal injury case, i.e., their deposition and live trial testimony.

The deposition preparation of the Plaintiff is essential. Down here in Texas, we call that "woodshedding" the plaintiff. The deposition of the plaintiff has three basic components: (a) history; (b) liability and (c) damages.

"History"- by history, I do not mean who was the 23rd president? I mean anything and everything about you, e.g., work history, education history, lawsuit history, criminal history, medical history, marital history, etc. Whenever a plaintiff sues for monetary damages alleging, among other things, monetary damages for elements of recovery such as mental anguish, economic loss, physical pain and suffering, etc. he/she places those issues in what the law calls "in issue". As a result of placing those matters in issue, the defense counsel has the right to inquire into matters which might tend to prove that you are not as deserving as your lawyer is trying to show (I hope anyway!). For instance, if you are taking the position that your injury has caused you to be unemployable in your field, the defense lawyer might obtain records from your pre-injury employers and then question you about them if they show you were fired numerous times for being a trouble maker in the workplace. The argument would go "this man's work history is such that he constantly gets fired and you should not award him/her money for economic loss because he/she can't hold a job anyway...". So, it is essential that the plaintiff's lawyer go through all the records that have been obtained by the defense counsel with you to flush out any "hickeys" (and believe me there are always hickeys!) to figure out how to truthfully best handle them. This is especially true with prior medical history, criminal history and claims history. Always be truthful and never argumentative.


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Answered on 4/10/09, 4:17 pm
Steve Gordon Gordon & Elias, L.L.P.

Re: Good Lawyer? POST 2 of 3

Continuation from POST 1--


"Liability"- The adage "diarrhea of the mouth" is not what you need to happen here. The defense counsel trial attorney is a finely honed knife that uses words to try to prove the following: (1) His client did not run the stop sign; (2) if his client ran the stop sign, he did not hit anyone; (3) if his client ran the stop sign and hit someone there was no one in the car; and (4) if his client ran the stop sign and if there was someone that he hit and if there was someone in the car well, then...they were already dead! As you can see, it is defense counsel's job to do anything and everything, within the bounds of zealous ethical representation, to avoid liability for his client. This is where you come in. One of the arrows in the "avoidance" quiver is the arrow called, "contributory [or comparative] negligence". If the defense lawyer can show that you put the oil on the deck that you slipped on and that you knew it was there and you just "forgot", then the jury/judge may hold you at fault and that your actions or omissions were the "proximate cause" of your injuries. This would be bad. So, the first Rule of Thumb is never volunteer anything! (No diarrhea of the mouth). Just answer the question asked and that's it (Zip the Lip). If the defense counsel is stupid and knows nothing about what you were doing, it is definitely not your job to educate him to ask quality, intelligent cogent questions. For instance, there was once a lady that was a plaintiff and she was being deposed in a rear-end situation. The defense lawyer asked "And you stopped at the stop sign applying your brakes, correct?" The answer should have been "Yes". However, the answer was "Yes...I had to stop there to take a left as I was going up to Midas Brakes on the corner to replace my left rear brake light that had been out for a while." :(

Well, I guess I don't have to tell you what the next 15 minutes of questioning was about! Lesson Learned: JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED!!!!


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Answered on 4/10/09, 4:19 pm
Steve Gordon Gordon & Elias, L.L.P.

Re: Good Lawyer?


"Damages"- The Rule of Thumb: HAVE DIARRHEA OF THE MOUTH!! This is your chance to fully explain how this injury has affected your life and your family's life. Do not stop. You should have been instructed by your lawyer early on to keep a diary or journal about everyday things that have changed, or everyday pains that you have or how you could not go fishing, or how you and your spouse have been fighting because money is tight due too your injury and on and on. Look at that journal to refresh your recollection of these times and lay it on. Because after the deposition, the defense lawyer is going back to his/her office ad they are going to type (in my day we dictated into tapes) the insurance adjuster (or insurer) about the kind of person you are and the story you told. This is called a carrier update letter and you want it to be favorable to you.

In closing, in answer to your question, the answer is a resounding YES!!! Our firm, mainly my partner as I am old and really are in the "marketing" section now than in the litigation side, ALWAYS woodshed the plaintiff. Probably better that it is my partner because I do not know as much as these young whippersnappers!

Some other general rules to follow:


(2) Be kind and polite..."Yes Sir" "No Sir". I am sure you have heard of the old adage:"You get more with honey than you do with _ _ _ _". Well it definitely applies in your deposition, if not to life generally.

(3) If you are unclear what they are asking, ask them to clarify what they are asking;

(4) It's OK to say "I don't know" as an answer to a question. People think they have to know everything. Well, simply put, no one knows everything! Remember another old good Texas saying: "There's never a horse that's never been rode and never a man that's never been throwed";

(5) It's OK to take a break and talk to your lawyer in confidence in another room. Especially if you get flustered;

(6) DO NOT ARGUE WITH OPPOSING COUNSEL. Remember the "honed knife" above. He/she is not on your side and I can assure you that you will ultimately lose any argument and you may say something that will hurt your case; and

(7) Listen to your lawyer. In some jurisdictions "coaching" is tolerated more than others. Your lawyer may be speaking to defense counsel or lodging an objection; is so, listen to what he/she is saying as it may help you get back on track.

G-d Bless and remember that everything has a way in working out if you don't lie.

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Answered on 4/10/09, 4:21 pm

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