News from the Front: The Examination Before Trial (EBT)
You have started your case and months have gone by and you haven't heard from your lawyer and you are wondering if anything is going on at all when you get a letter or a call telling you that you will have to appear to give testimony in your case at either the court house itself or at one of the many company settings that now exist to take testimony in cases in litigation. What do you do? You have never testified before and you are anxious and you have no idea what they are going to ask you or what you are going to say.
Your excellent trial lawyer is going to ask you to appear at his or her office a day or two before the day of testimony to review your case and make it clear to you what you can expect and what traps to avoid. Having just written "traps", I must digress: the classic trap in auto accident cases is the time, speed, distance trap. How far away was that vehicle when you first saw it prior to the crash? What was you speed at that time? How much time passed between the time you first saw that vehicle and the time the accident (I generally like using the word crash but accident will do)?
Many people will guess: Oh I don't know, 50 feet? Maybe 5 seconds? I was going 30 mph? They are not so much testifying as giving words they hope will be acceptable, which is dangerous in litigation. The problem is that annoying little area of law known as mathematics. A vehicle will travel approximately 1.5 feet for every mile per hour travelled, that is, going 10 mph equates to approximately 15 feet per second. How can that be you ask? Do the math.
At one mile an hour, your travel one mile in one hour. An hour has 60 minutes, a mile has 5280 feet, therefore dividing both values by 60 gives you the amount of feet one travels in one minute: 88 feet. Stay with me. A minute has sixty seconds so dividing one minute by 60 and 88 feet by 60 gives you the amount of feet covered in one second: 1.47 feet per second.
What does this all mean and how would they use it against me? So if you testify that the other car was one hundred feet away turning in front of you at an intersection and the crash happened "a second" after you saw them in a 30 mph zone; they have got you. If it was one hundred feet that you had to travel to reach the intersection and you arrived there "a second after seeing the car" you had to be traveling at least 66 mph (99ft/sec) or twice the 30 mph speed limit. Speed, distance and time rarely, if ever, line up in testimony and it is always a dangerous area. That's why guessing is not a good thing to do, even estimating time and distance are usually so inaccurate as to be hazardous to your case. If you know, tell the truth and say what you know but if you don't know, don't guess.
Back to the deposition prep, briefly. You will have three parts: your personal history, the happening of the accident itself and the medical attention you have received since the day of the accident. You should be fully prepared to testify about where you have lived for approximately the last ten years, where you have worked, what your responsibilities and duties are at that employment, etc. You should also review as many details about the day of the accident and the accident itself as you can, reviewing the relevant police report and any documents you may have that would refresh your recollection. Finally, you should be fully versed in the medical complaints you made to your provider, the emergency room and everyone thereafter, who the medical providers were or are that you used, any diagnostic tests, and any surgical procedures you went through since the accident in order to lay out a clear and detailed picture of your claim.
Should your attorney say that he or she will meet you a half hour before you are to testify to go over everything, run. The kind of preparation needed to professionally prepare you takes as long as it takes and never takes as little as a half hour.