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How to Cope With an Improper Question at a Medical Malpractice Deposition?

By Dan Minc, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, January 07, 2015.

You feel your doctor has failed to diagnose your cancer in a timely manner and because of that, you have suffered significant harm and injury. You file a medical malpractice lawsuit, and when you are questioned at the pretrial question and answer session called a deposition, the defense attorney asks you why you chose to bring a lawsuit at this time. Now, do you have to give an answer to this type of question?

You feel your doctor has failed to diagnose your cancer in a timely manner and because of that, you have suffered significant harm and injury. You file a medical malpractice lawsuit, and when you are questioned at the pretrial question and answer session called a deposition, the defense attorney asks you why you chose to bring a lawsuit at this time. Now, do you have to give an answer to this type of question?

The Reason behind Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

You are initiating a lawsuit because of failure to diagnose cancer in a timely manner, and because of the delay by the hospital and doctors in diagnosing your condition, your cancer has now spread. Now you are worried, what you should answer if the lawyer asks you as to why you have filed the case. The defense attorney might ask you directly, as to why you have brought this lawsuit against his client, the doctor.

Should You Answer such a Question?

Firstly, you need to know if this is an appropriate question, and secondly are you obliged to answer this question. There is absolutely no right for the defense attorney to ask you such a question, and this question is considered improper. Since the motivation to bring a lawsuit and to seek compensation is an inherent right of every injured person, and therefore a victim should never have to answer such a type of question.

You do not have to explain or justify to the defense lawyer who is representing the people whom you believe have caused and contributed to your injuries. Asking you why you have filed the medical malpractice lawsuit would be a palpably improper question. Your lawyer will most probably direct you not to answer such a question during your pretrial testimony.

During Trial Things are Different

At trial, the situation might be different because the judge might ask you to answer such a question. During trial this might be an appropriate question, and you can turn to the jury and explain to them your rationale or motivation behind bringing this lawsuit. However, during the discovery process, which is the pretrial question and answer session called a deposition, such a question would be highly inappropriate.

In fact, your lawyer will instruct you not to answer this question during deposition. Your lawyer would even comment that it is palpably improper for the defense attorney to ask such a question during deposition. He will observe that the defense knows this to be an improper question and yet they are asking it simply because they are fishing for information.

During the discovery phase, each side is given the opportunity to ask specific questions that will make things more clear about the case. The defense lawyer can ask you what actually happened and even ask you specific questions that might clarify certain facts or situations related to the case. However, a generalized question such as why you are filing the medical malpractice lawsuit is improper at a deposition and can be asked only during a trial.

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