Dressing for Your Deposition

If you have taken the time to search the internet for “how to dress for a deposition,” then you are likely already half-way there to getting it right.

There are cultural and regional variations to this advice, of course. In the bible belt, a lawyer often tells his client to dress as though they are going to church. That may be good advice, but here in Arizona we have a lot of casual churches that accept golf shorts and jeans as acceptable attire.

The best advice I can give is to dress to impress your audience. The people you will see at a deposition include attorneys, sometimes an adjuster, the court reporter and possibly the opposing party or, if the opposing party is a corporation, a representative of theirs. If your deposition will be videotaped, which your attorney should advise you of in advance, there will also be a videographer and a camera.
While you must strive to be polite to everyone in the room, you are not trying to impress the court reporter or videographer. You want the attorneys and others in the room to have a good impression of you. Most often, that means going with a conservative appearance.

If you work at an office with a “business casual” dress code, then your wardrobe already contains what you likely need to look good. For men, a suit and tie would be good. For women, a suit, dress, slacks and a blazer or similar clothes would work.

But here’s the extra trick: go one more. If you are wearing a skirt suit, for instance, wear pantyhose, heels and a scarf or a brooch or a substantial piece of jewelry. If you are wearing a dress, make it a little more elegant with a sweater , jacket or shrug and heels. Try to take whatever outfit you think works well and add one more piece to the mix. If your lawyer doesn’t care for it, he or she can gently advise you to remove it before the deposition; but you won’t be able to add anything after you’ve arrived.

Avoid super bright colors – which give off a happy vibe that may contrast with the somber testimony you will be providing. But do wear colors that look good on you and that make you feel comfortable and confident.

You can also treat your deposition preparation session as a dress rehearsal. Wear what you are planning to wear to the deposition and check in with your lawyer to see if you are hitting the right tone.

Although it technically doesn’t fall into the category of wardrobe, I should make a passing note about piercings and tattoos. If you have tattoos that can be easily hidden with your wardrobe, do it. If you have extra piercings (beyond one hole per ear)that can be removed and replaced after the deposition, do it. If you have large gauge piercings that cannot be hidden, try to wear the most benign piece of jewelry you can find – think hider plug rather than tapers or spirals.

Finally, even if you have to do it only temporarily, you are best off having a hair color that is typically found in nature. It doesn’t have to be your natural color, but should be a natural tone. If you are unable to modify an unusual hair color, style it in the most conservative way possible.

Remember that the attorney deposing you and the adjuster, if there is one, are the people deciding whether and how much of an offer to make. They will base that opinion, in part, on whether they think a jury will like and respect you and want to award you money. Time and again, I’ve heard jurors complain “why didn’t she dress up?” and “didn’t he realize he was coming to court?”. Jeans and t-shirts may work in your everyday life, but depositions are a court proceeding that take place outside a courtroom and they require some extra wardrobe attention.

Star Client Tip #6: Ask lots of questions. If you aren’t sure how to dress for your deposition, ask your lawyer or her staff to help you.

Giving a Statement to the Insurance Company

When filing a claim and giving a statement to the insurance company, it is crucial to think before you speak.

Insurance adjusters and lawyers alike are trained to pick up on key words or phrases that may shift the determination of blame during an open case.

Though it is common to want to thoroughly explain every detail when giving a statement, try to stick to declarative statements regarding only the facts. As explained in number two of Yahoo’s post “9 Things Never to Say to Your Insurance Company”, describing your injury as whiplash after an accident instead of explaining you have neck pain can make a huge difference. “Whiplash” will put an insurance company on high alert and cause them to prepare for legal counsel. Declaring neck pain, however, leaves room to be fully diagnosed by a medical professional. Being aware of these key words or phrases can be the difference between an easy claims process and having to deal with litigation. By only disclosing what is necessary, you will protect yourself against giving someone a reason to fight or deny your claim.

Providing a recorded statement is equally fraught with peril.  As attorneys, we have rarely seen or heard a recorded statement where every word that a client spoke can be understood.  Some adjusters or attorneys who handle recorded statements will also ask leading questions, suggest answers and generally direct the way the conversation is going to go without giving you an opportunity to explain everything – or worse, you might inadvertently say something that is not accurate because you are still under stress.

Hiring an attorney often shields you from giving a recorded statement and may make the difference between a very small settlement and a much better one.

The New Driver’s Guide to Car Accidents

Did you know that car accidents are the number one cause of death among new drivers 16-19 years old? You can help change this statistic.

Although one person’s choices may seem small, that one person may wear off on someone around them and then that person may wear off on someone else and then you have suddenly stretched out to reach hundreds and thousands of people.

Of course, it’s terrifying to see one of these statistics come to life. Often times our generation comes out of high school with at least one person they knew dead from a car accident. However, there are some ways that you can make sure that one person isn’t you:

  1. Don’t text and drive. We all hear it over and over but just one moment of distraction could cause an accident. Even if it is because of someone else’s careless driving, your being distracted could take away that crucial moment you needed to react and avoid an accident.
  2. Don’t drive across the lines marking parking spots in a parking lot. Stick to the marked path of travel and don’t speed. The most common place to get in a wreck is in a parking lot. There is always the risk that you will come out of a parking spot and get hit, even if you’re looking. But it would still seem like the safest place, right? Wrong. You never know who will suddenly go 60 mph across the lot because it’s fairly empty.
  3. Keep the radio turned down enough that you will be able to hear emergency vehicles. Believe it or not, you aren’t a superhero. There is no guarantee that you will see the lights in the mirror every time. Especially if you’re trying to multitask and drive.
  4. It is best to always stay focused on the road when you’re driving but if you are doing something with your phone or the radio while stopped at a stop light and see the traffic on your left begin to move: look up to see if you have a green light before moving. Don’t just assume you have one!
  5. Do not put on your make-up in the car. Either put it on before you get into the car or after you arrive at your destination. If you have a mirror down in front of your face it is difficult, if not impossible, to see the road well.
  6. Figure out how much you are capable of doing while you drive. If talking takes away your focus when you’re driving: it is okay to ask your friend in the car with you not to talk to you while you drive. If they argue, you can always tell them to find another ride because YOU want to stay alive.
  7. Don’t assume you are going to be capable of talking on the phone while you drive, especially if you have to hold the phone in your hand. It is never a good idea to have your hands off the wheel if driving isn’t second nature to you.
  8. Don’t allow your friends to distract you while you drive. If they succeed, you could end up in an accident.

Though no one wants to be in an accident, you have to be prepared if you ever are in one. It is very easy to react out of panic or shock but when in an accident you will have to push through it and clear your thoughts.

Things to remember:

  • Remain calm.
  • Check on the condition of your own body and, if others are in the car with you, theirs’. Your health is what matters. Don’t worry about your car until you have worried about yourself.
  • Do not exit your vehicle into a busy location, unless it is safe to do so.
    Call the police and, if you are able, get the license plate number of the other person in the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but don’t argue with them or try to prove fault at the accident scene.
  • Wait and provide a statement to the police. No matter how minor the collision seems, you need to wait for a police report to be written or you might be cheated out of insurance money. Never drive off: not out of panic and not even if the other person does. You could end up losing your license.
  • Know that just because you aren’t in pain doesn’t mean you aren’t hurt. It is in your best interest to allow someone to examine you, just in case.
  • Soft tissue injuries: whiplash, back pain, and bruising for example, often don’t show any signs at the time of the injury. Take it easy for a few days to see if you have any unexplained pain.
  • Do not hesitate to receive medical care, be it going to the Emergency Room at the time of the injury or seeing a specialist after the injury. Not everything will simply go away over time; especially if you are in no position to take it easy for a while. If you find you hurt after the accident, at least have it checked out to be certain it isn’t long term damage.
  • Consider hiring a lawyer to help you with the claim process.
  • Call the at-fault driver’s insurance company to open a claim, but don’t give a recorded statement if you plan to hire a lawyer. Let the lawyer handle how the insurance company gets information.
  • Don’t accept a quick payout! Many insurance companies offer a quick $500 payout to release all claims against the other driver. This is almost never a good idea. Talk to a professional about what your claim is worth- Take into consideration whether you were injured, what your medical bills will be, how long it will take you to recover and the things you won’t be able to do.

When you’re young and broke, one of the huge concerns is how an accident will affect your insurance rates. Obviously, if you are at fault they will go up. But what if you’re not at fault? In Arizona, insurance companies can’t raise your rates for being in an accident that wasn’t your fault.