Going Through Your First Deposition

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | William N. Levine, MD, FAAOS

March 9, 2022

You finally hit your stride with your practice and after a long day at work, there is a thick envelope on your desk.  Unfortunately, most of us will get served one day so depositions are an inevitable part of our world.  Here are some tips to survive your first deposition.

1Breathe and Prepare

Take a deep breath and gather as much information as you can; read through the subpoena in order to understand the reasons why you were deposed.  Contact the department’s legal counsel or the institutions risk-management office to further elucidate what exactly is required of you. If you are in private practice, best to hire your own attorney.

2Get Perspective

Talk to friends and colleagues about their experiences of depositions.  Find out what worked and what made the process easier. Do NOT talk about the specifics of the case with anyone other than your attorney. Do NOT contact the patient under any circumstances.

3Don’t Access Medical Records

Do NOT access the medical record, beyond that of what is provided to you by the legal team.  It can be very difficult to do this, but it is important.

4Know the Medical History

Make sure you review the history; even if you know the patient extremely well, take the time to review all relevant records to best understand why certain management approaches were taken and risk factors that may have contributed to challenges during any and all treatments

5Review the Case

You will review the case and the likely line of questioning with your attorney prior to the actual deposition in most cases (routine worker’s compensation cases are obviously very different).

6Review your CV

Review your CV and be able to answer the routine questions about your education – know the dates of graduation, where you have privileges, etc. It may sound silly, but you will be asked these questions at the beginning of the deposition to establish your training, status, etc.

7Keep Your Composure

Do NOT get flustered, angry, emotional when the plaintiff’s attorney is deposing you. And definitely avoid arrogance, cockiness, and “attitude”. Answer honestly, succinctly and do not pontificate. Answer directly, but it is not the time to give a lecture. Your attorney will ask you follow-up questions which can help to give the other side of the narrative compared to the plaintiff’s attorney.

8Be Transparent

Be very clear with the legal team about the thought process that guided your decision making in the patient’s care.  Providing rationale as to why you did what you did is critical irrespective of the rationale for the deposition.

We hope this provides some perspective as you prepare!  Best of luck.

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Levine is on the Columbia faculty, serves as Board or committee member for the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, and is on the editorial or governing board for the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Levine serves as an unpaid consultant to Zimmer Biomet.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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