Recently I had a unique experience in that I gave a deposition. I’ve taken countless depositions over the years, but I’ve never been under oath as a witness before. This wasn’t in a work comp case, but still it was a bit strange. The first question the attorney asked me was if I have ever been deposed before and it actually threw me for a loop because she then gave a bunch of instructions that are typical to give to someone who has never been part of the court process before.
My deposition, in my opinion, was mostly a waste of time. I’m a pretty minor witness in a case, but they were just doing their due diligence. That said, I was once told that you learn something new at every deposition and in this case I learned two things that I think are really relevant to anyone who has an Illinois work injury.
First, my take on the dep was that more than anything, the lawyer was sizing me up to see how I would testify at trial if it came to that point. We often see opposing attorneys asking to meet with our clients at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. We’ll agree to that if we trust the other attorney and think that it can help move the case along. Often they want to size you up because if you aren’t presentable or are combative, then they’d want you to go to trial as you likely wouldn’t look good in front of an Arbitrator. On the other hand, if you come across great then they know that will work to your advantage at trial and might be more motivated to settle.
The second lesson I learned is to relate better to my clients concerns. The person who is the plaintiff in the case I testified in is a close friend of mine. His lawyer is part of a very prestigious personal injury law firm in Chicago. The defense attorney was very nice and seemed pretty bright. But what threw me at first was the fact that the two of them are obviously good friends, so much so that he had texted her photos of his flooded basement the day before the deposition.
I’ve always told callers and clients that if your lawyer is friends with the defense attorney it’s a good thing and I know that is true. You don’t want an enemy on the other side. It still threw me a bit because I care a lot about my friend and in my head I was thinking “Why are you so nice to her?”
The problem with my thinking is that it’s an emotional reaction and the job of an attorney, at least a good one, is to take emotion out of a case and stick to facts. So I was definitely wrong, but learned more about why injured workers feel that way.
I view this all as a positive because any time I can relate to a client or caller it’s a bonus. Like I said, as a lawyer we are always learning.