Anyone who has been through a Personal Injury lawsuit will be familiar with the Examination Before Trial or EBT or Deposition. But what exactly is an EBT ?
An EBT is a fairly informal proceeding which occurs prior to a trial (often months or years prior to the trial) where the attorneys for each side get to question, under oath, the other sides party to the lawsuit. It usually occurs at the office of one of the attorneys, or at the county court house. The only people present are the parties (usually just plaintiff & defendant), their attorneys, and a stenographer to record the proceedings. Each party is questioned by the other sides attorney with the purpose to illicit information about the lawsuit, high light the issues, and eliminating surprise at the trial.
While each case and each EBT is unique unto itself, the basic guidelines to follow are universal:
TELL THE TRUTH: Like your mother always told you, honesty is the best policy. If you are caught lying it can severely damage your credibility, your claim, and in a worst case scenario, may actually completely kill your case. Simply tell the truth and explain what happened to cause your accident \ injuries
DO NOT GUESS: If you are asked a question and do not know the answer, than simply say so. There is nothing wrong with saying , “I DO NOT KNOW”. Guessing can only lead to problems.
UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION: If you do not fully understand the question posed to you, than DO NOT ANSWER IT. This is just as bad as guessing. If you don’t understand the question than say so. Do not be shy. Have the opposing attorney repeat or rephrase the question as many times as needed in order to feel comfortable with the question.
ANSWER THE QUESTION: This may seem like an obvious thing to say but it isn’t . Obviously, you are going to answer the question posed to you, but there are good & bad ways to do so. Quite simply, answer the question AND ONLY THE QUESTION ! Do not volunteer additional information or continue to ramble on after you have answered.
STAY CALM & BE POLITE: Often times the other attorney will try to “get a rise” out of you. Don’t fall for it. Be polite , calm, and carry yourself like a professional. Simply answer the questions as they come and keep your cool.
AVOID JOKES & WISE CRACKS: First off a lawsuit is a serious matter and deserves to be treated with respect. Secondly, remember that everything you say is being recorded by a stenographer. Even funny jokes don’t always seem funny later on when they are in written form. Sarcasm, tone of voice, & facial expressions do NOT come across in a transcript.
An Examination Before trial is a very important part of the case. A poorly conducted EBT can damage a case, if not totally destroy it. Conversely, a good EBT can set you up for a successful trial, or even force your adversary into a favorable settlement.