How Much Does The Personal Injury Client Affect Settlement and Deposition Preparation?

NeuwirthLawCase Matters, Courts, For Lawyers

It matters a lot. Are you a Roger Federer type or Novak Djokovic? Some people are just very genuine, approachable, and likeable people. Others are not. Most of us are somewhere in between. But, those likeable guileless people are going to get a better settlement for the same case. Why? Well, more than likely the deposition displayed the plaintiff as he or she is and the defense lawyer saw it and communicated that to the insurer. Even in cases that I have handled where liability is a close call, often we get the case settled because the plaintiff was just such a nice genuine person that jurors would just melt at their story.


For example, I had a client who was fairly hurt coming home in a Lyft car from a church service. The church was her social group and she was there on a Saturday night. The defense lawyer asked if she was drinking and if that was why she took a Lyft car. The client said she does not drink as her church forbids it and is one of the many paths to evil, but that she understood why the defense lawyer would ask that and it was a good question. Now, I certainly did not prepare her to say that, but I knew that her personality would come through as the person she was. Did it matter to her case? Yes, because the defense lawyer just had to chuckle and tell her insurer that you did not want to go up against her in court. The jury would love her and hand her a pile of money.


So, what lesson does that teach me or possibly you? Well, I like to keep my case load full of people I like and want to represent. I do represent people who are difficult or suspicious of defense lawyers or make a poor presentation through no fault of their own. For them, I try to gently explain that fighting with the other lawyer is not a good idea or that they have a tendency to speak over people that is annoying. Some clients are chatty and some are not. Most of my clients have not been deposed before and it is an anxiety producing experience, but nearly all are adults and able to handle themselves with a little practice.

In many insurance defense cases, which are most of my routine car accident and slip and fall cases, defense lawyers are overworked and not terribly invested in their cases. Often, they will prepare their witnesses for a half hour literally right before the deposition. On the Plaintiff’s side, I think that is not acceptable. I spend two to three hours preparing my clients for a one hour deposition both to get them used to what is coming, to discuss issues, and to show them that I am working hard for them and earning my fee. I call all my clients after their deposition to debrief them. The one thing I want to hear at the end of the deposition is that we anticipated and they were prepared for all the questions that were asked.