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What to expect at your deposition in a slip and fall case

What to expect at your deposition in a slip and fall case

What is a deposition?

When a lawsuit is filed, the parties to the lawsuit take part in a process called “discovery,” during which each party attempts to learn what the other party knows, or claims to know, about the incident that is the subject of the lawsuit. As part of the discovery process, the parties take “depositions.” A deposition is like an interview, except that the questions and answers are recorded, word for word, and the person answering the questions is required to tell the truth, subject to penalty of perjury.

Questions you might be asked during your slip and fall deposition

If you have filed a lawsuit, claiming to have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you will be deposed by the attorney for the defendant (the person or entity you sued). Below is a series of topics and related questions you may be asked the defendant’s lawyer:

1. Your physical history relevant to falling

  • Have you ever had had any of the following?
    • Epilepsy? [This might also be described as “fits” or “convulsions.”]
    • High blood pressure?
    • Diabetes?
    • Heart trouble?
    • Transient numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg?
    • “Clogged arteries”?
    • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)? [TIA is a transient stroke that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke but do not last as long. Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours.]
    • Dizziness?
    • Hearing problems?
  • What is your medical history relevant to your legs (e.g., past sprains, breaks, injuries, etc.)?
  • What is your medical history relevant to your feet?
  • Your vision
    • Do you have the same vision in both eyes? Determine whether both eyes see the same.
    • Do you wear glasses? What power? What prescription? Bifocals?
    • When were your eyes last examined? Who did the examination?
    • Who has your medical history relevant to your eyes?
    • Do you have a history of problems with your eyes?
    • Does your driver’s license restrict you to wearing glasses while driving?
  • Your other senses: Do you have any history of problems with your other senses?
  • All medications taken by you the week of the slip and fall accident.
  • All medications taken by you at the present time.
  • Do these medications have any known side-effects?
  • What is your experience in terms of side-effects from this medication?

2. Previous falls

  • Were you ever injured in a slip and fall before this accident?
  • Have you fallen in the past, without injuries?

3. Your physical condition at the time of the slip and fall accident

  • Describe your activities the day and night before the slip and fall accident.
  • How well and for how long did you sleep the night before?
  • What work or activities did you do the day of the slip and fall accident?
  • What was the condition of your legs and feet when entering the defendant’s premises?
  • Any problems with your eyes on the accident date?
  • Were you wearing glasses?
  • List any drugs, tranquilizers, or medicines you used within 48 hours before accident.
  • Was there any personal or family crisis that may have reduced your alertness?

4. Shoes worn at the site of the slip and fall accident

  • Describe the shoes you were wearing at the time of the slip and fall accident. [You may be asked to bring those shoes to the deposition.]
  • Describe the condition of your shoes before the slip and fall.
  • Was there a substance or liquid on the shoes before the accident?
  • Describe the condition of your shoes after the slip and fall.
  • Was there anything on your shoes?
  • Who saw the shoes after the fall?
  • Were the shoes worn or repaired after the accident?

5. Your route on the day of the slip and fall accident

The defendant’s attorney likely will ask you to go over, in detail, all of the places you had been in the two hours before the slip and fall accident. Then, he or she will ask you to describe, in precise detail, the exact route you took from the entrance into the defendant’s premises until the place where you slipped and fell. The defense attorney also will ask questions to determine your familiarity with the defendant’s premises:

  • When were you on the premises last?
  • How often have you been on the premises in the past?
  • When is the last time you were at this exact place on the premises?
  • How often have you been to this exact place in the past?
  • Were you familiar with the area and the task or activity to be done?

6. Any invitation or permission granted to you to be on the premises at the time of the slip and fall accident

In many states, the defendant’s responsibility to you, in relation to your slip and fall claim, will depend on your legal status on the property; the defendant’s will have a greater or lesser obligation to you depending on whether you were on the property as a trespasser, an invitee, a licensee, or an employee. These questions are intended to help the defendant determine your status.

  • Describe all business, social, or family reasons for you to be on the premises.
  • Exactly what were you intending to do on the premises?
  • Did anyone give you specific permission, invitation, or clearance to be on the premises?
  • How long did you think you would be on the premises?

7. Weather conditions on the day of the slip and fall

  • What was the temperature at the time of the slip and fall accident?
  • How did the temperature affect the place of accident and how did it affect you?
  • Was there any precipitation that day? How much and when?
  • How did the precipitation affect the place of accident and how did it affect you?

8. Place of slip and fall accident

  • Describe generally the place where the fall occurred. [At this point, you will be asked to produce and photographs you have of the scene of the slip and fall; you also will be asked to review any photographs the defense has.]
  • Describe the surface or floor covering.
  • What furnishings or equipment were present?
  • What objects were on the floor?
  • What obstructions to the route were present?
  • What obstructions to vision were present?
  • Where were you looking before you slipped and fell?
  • Was there anything to distract you from looking where you were walking?
  • At the place where you fell, could you have seen the floor if you had looked?
  • What obstructions to hearing were there?

9. Lighting

  • What time of day did you slip and fall?
  • Was the lighting natural or artificial?
  • Did you see any light bulbs burned out?
  • Did you feel worried or afraid to proceed because of any lack of light?
  • If an employee of the defendant had been standing next to you, you would not have expected that employee to feel worried or afraid?
  • Was there plenty of light?
  • Was the light sufficient to: see you hand; see each individual finger on your hand; read a newspaper headline; read a story in the newspaper; pick a pin up off the floor?

10. Carrying or holding anything at time of fall

Describe any items you were carrying, how they were carried, and how long you had carried them.

11. Handrail or other safety device

Did you see a [handrail, light switch, other safety devices, as applicable]?

  • If no, why not?
  • If yes, was it used?
  • If it was not used, why not?
  • If it was used, how and when was it used?

12. Conduct before the slip and fall

What, specifically, were you doing immediately before the slip and fall accident?

13. Were other persons and items involved?

  • Describe other persons, if any, involved in what happened.
  • Had you seen or known them before the date of the slip and fall accident?
  • What, exactly, did these other people do?
  • What items were involved?
  • Had you seen or used these items before the accident date?
  • How did these items contribute to the situation?

14. The slip and fall

  • Describe the slip and fall in detail and precisely.
  • Exactly where were you when you started to fall?
  • Did you slip? trip? stumble?
  • Which foot slipped, tripped, or stumbled first?
  • Exactly how did your body move as you fell?
  • What part of your body hit the floor first?
  • Where on the floor did you first hit?
  • Exactly where did you end up on the floor?
  • In what position were you after the fall and before you moved?
  • What caused the fall? Was it a:
    • Person?
    • Foreign liquid or substance?
    • Obstruction or unevenness?
    • Any other object?
    • Any other cause?
  • As to each cause:
  • Did you see it? smell it? hear it?
  • When did you first see it? smell it? hear it?
  • What exactly did it look like? smell like? sound like?
  • Did you see it later? smell it later? hear it later?
    • Is it a mere guess that this is what caused you to slip and fall?
    • Did someone tell you that was the reason you fell?
  • What was told to you?
  • Who told you?
  • When did they tell you?

15. Defects in equipment or premises

Did you notice any defects in the design and construction of the equipment or premises?

  • Fully describe the defects.
  • When did you first notice the defects?
  • Did the defendant have notice or knowledge of the defects?
  • Did you ever complain to the defendant or anyone else?

Did you notice any maintenance defects?

  • Fully describe the defects.
  • When did you first notice the defects?
  • Did the defendant have notice or knowledge of the defects?
  • Did you ever complain to the defendant or anyone else?

Did you notice any foreign objects, liquids or substances?

  • Fully describe.
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Did the defendant have notice or knowledge of the foreign objects, liquids or substances?
  • Did you ever complain to the defendant or anyone else?

Did you notice any other defects of equipment or the premises?

  • Fully describe.
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Did the defendant have notice or knowledge of the defect?
  • Did you ever complain to the defendant or anyone else?

16. Defects in procedures or actions by other persons

Did you notice any defects in procedures or actions by other persons?

  • How was this defect involved in your slip and fall injury accident?
  • Fully describe the defect.
  • When did you first notice it?
  • Did the defendant have notice or knowledge of the defect?
  • Did you ever complain to the defendant or anyone else?
  • Could you see the procedures or actions by other persons?
  • Were you familiar with the procedures or actions by other persons?

17. Draw a map

Defense counsel may ask you to draw a map of the accident scene, including where you were when you came into the area, where you walked to, and where you fell down. [Be aware that unless you are a skilled artist or have been well prepared by your personal injury attorney, your map will have inaccuracies, which the defense attorney may try to use at trial to shake your confidence.]

18. Contacts with the defendant

What contacts did you have with the defendant before the accident? after the accident?

19. What happened after the accident?

  • You were lying where?
  • What assistance was received?
  • Did you have any conversations at the scene? With whom? What was said?
  • Did you examine the place and conditions at the scene right after the slip and fall accident?
  • Did anyone conduct an examination?
  • What was found?

20. Witnesses to accident

Defense counsel likely will ask you for specific descriptions of any witnesses so that the defendant’s investigator can find and question these witnesses.

  • What is the witness’s exact name, address, phone number, employer, and job title?
  • Describe the witness’s height, weight, hair, race, other identifying information.
  • Where was the witness at the time of the accident?
  • What did he or she see?
  • What did he or she do?
  • What did he or she tell you?

21. Leaving the place of the slip and fall accident

How, when, and with whom did you leave the scene of the slip and fall accident?

22. Returns to the scene

Since the slip and fall accident, have you been back to the scene?

  • When?
  • Why?
  • With whom?
  • What was done?
  • By whom?

23. Inspection by others of the scene

Has anyone else inspected the scene of the slip and fall accident?

  • When?
  • Why?
  • With whom?
  • What was done?
  • By Whom?

24. Items used to refresh recollection

What documents did you review in preparation for your deposition? [You will be asked to produce any documents you reviewed.]

25. Closing questions

  • Is there any person we have not discussed today who was a witness to:
    • The slip and fall accident?
    • The defendant’s activities on the premises?
    • The maintenance of the premises?
    • The condition of the specific item or product involved on the accident date?
  • Do you have any opinions about the cause of this slip and fall accident that we have not talked about today?
  • Is there anything else about how or why the slip and fall accident happened that you have not told us?
  • Do you know of anyone else who knows about how or why the accident happened?
  • Do you know of any photos or maps of the accident scene that we have not seen here today?
  • Did you produce today all the documents that we requested you bring to the deposition?
  • Are there any documents relevant to this slip and fall accident that have not been produced here today?

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