Goal number one when your client is giving a deposition is to do no harm.
The greatest harm your client can do in almost any personal injury case in his/her deposition is to get caught in a lie. Clients are most prone to “lie” about prior car accidents because they genuinely do not remember them. But a smart insurance company lawyer may turn an innocent failure to recall into a litmus test on the client’s credibility. As much as we as personal injury lawyers like to make the cases about ourselves – particularly when we get a great verdict, we all do it – the importance of our credibility/likability is a distant second to the importance to that of our client.
How can you solve the problem? Obviously, a good attorney spends time before the deposition discussing the issue with the client, explaining in very direct terms that prior medical history or claims history will be uncovered by any competent defense attorney or adjuster with access to a computer and/or the medical records. But, again, in some circumstances, the client may not remember whether they were injured on the job or made a claim for a car accident in which it involved them.
The backup to your client’s best recollection is to have your client fill out a claims index so you can have access to the same information as the insurance company. American Insurance Services Group (AISG) is the company our lawyers use, but there are others that do the same thing for the same price. For twenty-five dollars, you can get a full claims history for your client, putting the personal injury lawyer on par with the insurance company in terms of information about prior accidents and claims.
It is also worthwhile for the lawyer to compare the information received from the client during the intake to his index form. If the client said this is his first accident and the claims report says he has had 5 previous car accidents where he has made claims, you know you have a problem.