How To Prepare for A Medical Malpractice Deposition

If you have decided to pursue a medical malpractice claim, there is a good chance you will be asked to undergo a deposition during the discovery phase of the case. This can often be intimidating as you may not know what to expect or how to prepare. In this article, I’ve included everything you need to know about what a medical malpractice deposition will look like. The article will also discuss how you can prepare for one. It will allow you to confidently pursue the financial compensation you deserve!

How To Prepare for A Medical Malpractice Deposition

Like depositions for many other legal cases, you will start with background information: name, address, where you work, how old you are, etc. These questions are designed to help the opposing attorney get to know more about you and what your life looks like. They are also used to help make you feel more at ease and more willing to answer conflicting questions down the road.

Once background information has been established, you will dive into the main part of the deposition surrounding the medical malpractice. Your attorney will help you prepare for this portion of the deposition, but there are a few things you can do to prepare beforehand as well, including writing down a statement describing the incident as best as you can remember, gathering any documents regarding the accident as you can, and answer everything as to-the-point and truthfully as possible.

What Is A Deposition?

A deposition is part of the discovery process of a legal case and takes place before a trial. It is designed as a way for both counsels to gather information on the case through the deponent’s testimony, to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their case. 

The deponent, which would be you, provides their testimony under oath, much like they would during the trial. It will take place in a neutral site, like a law office conference room, with a court reporter present as well as the legal counsels for each side. In some cases, expert witnesses will also attend, though having the holistic doctor being accused of negligence appear is very unlikely.

Though many medical malpractice cases will be settled outside of court, typically once the deposition process has concluded, in some cases, your testimony in the deposition will be used if the case proceeds to trial.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital or healthcare professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes injury or illness to a patient. The injury can be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, or health management. 

Under the law, a claim will be considered medical malpractice if it has the following characteristics:

  • A violation of the standard of care: certain medical standards are recognized by the profession as acceptable medical treatments by prudent healthcare professionals under similar circumstances – the standard of care. It must be determined that the standard of care has not been met and negligence can then be established.
  • An injury was caused by negligence: a healthcare professional cannot have only violated the standard of care, it must also be proved that the patient sustained an injury that would not have occurred in the absence of the negligence. There must be proof that the negligence caused the injury.
  • The injury resulted in significant damages: for a medical malpractice case to be viable, the patient must show that significant damages have resulted from an injury received because of the medical negligence – disability, loss of income, unusual pain, significant medical bills, suffering, etc.

Some examples of medical malpractice cases include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, unnecessary surgery, surgical errors, premature discharge, improper medicine, poor aftercare, etc.

Preparing for Your Medical Malpractice Deposition

As always, your attorney will walk you through exactly what to expect from your medical malpractice deposition, the kind of questions you will face, and how best to answer them. Some things that will be helpful for you before the deposition will include gathering any documents or records that pertain to the incident and writing down a statement of everything you remember about the incident itself and what has occurred since.

In medical malpractice depositions, many of the same questions are asked over and over, sometimes in the same way and sometimes with different wording. This is designed to fluster you or get you to change your answer – remember to stay calm, ask for clarity, and answer truthfully.

Some of the most common questions you will be asked during your medical malpractice deposition include:

  • When did you first notice symptoms?
  • Did you seek help immediately? Why or why not?
  • What care have you received since the injury occurred?
  • Have you obtained a second opinion on your condition?
  • Why do you feel the doctor/hospital was responsible?
  • How has the injury affected your quality of life?
  • What is the prognosis for the future?

Whenever you do not know the answer to a question or can’t recall, it is perfectly okay for you to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall.” Do your best to remain calm and composed, communicate with your attorney during the process, and stick with what you believed when you started the pursuit of this case.

Things to Know About a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most expensive to litigate, requiring testimonies from many different experts and witnesses, and many hours of deposition testimony. Beyond that, you and your attorney must be able to prove that injury resulted in significant damages that occurred because of negligence, due to a violation of the standard of care provided by an individual doctor, hospital, hospice care provider, or other healthcare professional.

Many times medical malpractice cases will be settled outside of court if the opposing counsel has determined that the case could have enough traction for them to lose at trial. They will try to avoid damaging their institution or physicians’ reputations by letting the case go public. You should be aware of these factors when choosing to pursue your case, while also remembering your convictions to pursue it in the first place.

Advice for Your Medical Malpractice Deposition

Undergoing a legal deposition for any reason can be intimidating, especially when you’ve never been part of one before. A few things you should keep in mind when preparing for your deposition include the following:

  • Dress appropriately: professional attire is expected – slacks, closed-toed shoes, button-up shirt/blouse, jacket/sweater, neat hair, etc.
  • Arrive on time: showing up on time and looking nice will ensure you are taken seriously
  • Answer succinctly and truthfully: never offer more information than was asked, keep your answers straightforward, answering truthfully always.
  • Remain calm: certain topics or questions may cause you to be uncomfortable or to get flustered, take a breath and take your time answering. You can always ask for clarity on the question.
  • Rehearse and practice: your attorney will likely take you through a mock deposition to help you prepare your answers, as well as see what kind of questions you should expect. Take this seriously and listen to your lawyer – they are on your side and trying to help you.
  • Use appropriate language: though this case will likely bring up many emotions, it is important that you avoid using derogatory language toward the doctor/hospital, that you maintain a professional attitude throughout the deposition.

By keeping these tips in mind, you will find that you have completed your deposition successfully. Always remember to listen to your attorney – they will help you create a strategy and help you word your answers to improve your case.

Post-Deposition Process

Throughout your deposition, you may have answered a question incorrectly or committed an error that must be changed – it is possible to do so. You must have your attorney contact the other party as soon as possible to ensure that the error is fixed.

Once the deposition has concluded, the court reporter will transcribe the event. Transcriptions will then be available for all parties. The deposition will be reviewed to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case and decisions will be made about needing further discovery, moving to trial, or pursuing a settlement.

You and your lawyer should prepare as though you are going to trial because a settlement is never guaranteed and will often not come quickly once the deposition is over. Many medical malpractice cases take a long time to conclude – so be prepared for a potentially long fight.

Fight For What You Believe In

There was a reason that you decided to pursue a medical malpractice claim against a hospital or physician – don’t forget that reason! Medical malpractice cases can be expensive and lengthy, but if you believe in your reason you will find success. Trust yourself and trust your personal injury attorney – they are on your side and they believe that you can win. 

Also, just because your case was settled doesn’t mean that you “lost.” Settlements that come from medical malpractice cases can be quite large and you will be holding the culprit responsible – even if it isn’t public.

Matt McWilliams

Deposition Academy is an online website created to guide those in the legal videographer industry or those interested in starting a legal videography business. The site has expanded to cover a variety of legal topics that are related to depositions and the deposition process. Our team of writers have written for a variety of legal blogs and website.