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Ten Traps To Avoid In Your Personal Injury Deposition

The Plaintiff’s deposition in a personal injury law suit is the single most important event in a claim. This is usually the defense attorney’s (insurance company) only chance to directly question the Plaintiff. During a deposition the defense attorney is trying to accomplish three main goals: find back ground information in order to find information to destroy your claim, elicit inconsistencies in your testimony in order to destroy your claim, and/or to destroy your credibility in order to destroy your claim. Below is my top ten list of fatal mistakes that a Plaintiff must avoid in their personal injury deposition.

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is or was your pain?
This is a trick question that is designed to get you to respond with a 9 or 10. Many times it is set up with questions about your injuries and comments like “That really must have hurt” or “I can’t imagine how bad that must have hurt”. Without a definition of what level of pain a 1, 2, 3 ect is, it is impossible to accurately answer this questions. A skilled insurance defense attorney will turn a 9 or 10 pain level answer into the Plaintiff is exaggerating, malingering and trying to “win the personal injury lottery”. In answering this question always start with a 10 being the worst imaginable pain (having gasoline dumped on your and set a fire) and work backwards from there. Then most common injuries from an accident will be in the 5 to 7 range, something that is much more reasonable.

2. Are you in pain 24 hours a day 7 days a week?
No. No. No. No one is ever in pain 24 hours a day seven days a week. While I have had individuals grievously injured who were in some level of pain every waking moment, everyone has to sleep at some point in time. When you are asleep you are not registering that you are in pain. Therefore the answer is always NO. A YES answer to this question is devastating for the Plaintiff’s case, because the defense attorney will again show that the Plaintiff is exaggerating, malingering and trying to “win the personal injury lottery”. A much better response to the 24/7 pain question is, No, but, I do have pain most days when I …, or I have pain every day when I … or some other accurate explanation.

3. Is your pain level always the same?
Of the vast majority of injuries that a person can sustain in their lifetime, few would result in the exact same level of pain every day. Normally pain levels will fluctuate according to activity levels, pain medication, and other variables. Therefore it is important to accurately testify about differing pain levels. Sometimes a person will have no pain at all, until they begin to perform certain activities. It is ok to say there are times when you are not in pain.

4. Is there anything you cannot do as a result of your injuries?
This is a very dangerous question that is intentionally vague in order to elicit a long list of activities that an individual cannot do. Most injured parties would give a long list of daily activities that have been affected by their injuries. However, the question asks for activities that “cannot” be done, not activities that are affected. When a person says “I cannot run anymore” a skilled defense attorney will present it as the Plaintiff claims they cannot, absolutely, positively under any circumstances run anymore. If the plaintiff is caught on tape running just one time, regardless of the circumstances, the distance, the speed or the resulting pain, they are a liar. If a doctor does not confirm that they cannot run under any circumstances they are a liar. A much better answer to this trick question is “of course I could run, but” I cannot run as fast, or as long, or as far or as frequent, ect. In essence the injury has affected my ability to run not preventing me from running.

5. Tell me every injury, accident, doctor you have ever had or seen?
This question literally asks for every injury, accident or doctor. Not just trauma related, or recently related, but everything. If you tell the defense attorney about 15 doctors and forget about 1, then you can argue you simply forgot. If you tell the defense attorney about 5 doctors and forget about 10, you’re a liar, even if you forgot. So it is important to disclose every doctor, including hearing doctors, eye doctors, dentist, obgyn’s, family doctors, ER visits for any reasons ect. It is also important to disclose all these doctors, injuries and accidents when asked. I have seen some defense attorneys ask this question and then change the subject after one or two responses so that it looks like the plaintiff willfully did not disclose “all”. If the defense attorney does this you must say “wait” I have more injuries, accidents or doctors to disclose.

6. Time, distance and speed.
It is impossible for anyone to give accurate statements regarding the speed of their vehicle, the distance between events or the time between observations. No one who is driving down the road has a stop watch, a tape measure or is looking constantly at their speedometer in order to gauge events of an accident that may never happen in their life time. The best someone can do is give an educated guess. However, if you have any two of the variables of time, distance or speed, you can figure out the other variable. Therefore, guesses about time, speed and distance will never match up and will negatively affect your credibility. The best answer is to always be clear that you are giving estimates and then give ranges. I was traveling “about” “35 to 40 miles per hour”, it took “around 3 or 4 seconds to …”, “I traveled roughly 3 to 4 car lengths after …”. These answers will be much more accurate and factor in the uncertainties associated with guesstimates.

7. Avoid absolutes.
When talking about most things in life, absolutes are troublesome. I have “never” said …, I “always” do … When asked a question like have you “ever” had neck pain before this accident, an answer of “never” is very troublesome. Most people will have had neck pain some point in their life from sleeping wrong, working out, having a cold ect. When you say never, it means never. If a single incident is found where you complained of neck pain, you will be portrayed as being a liar. So always avoid absolute terms unless you really, truly, positively mean never or always.

8. Trying to hide bad stuff that you think will never come up.
In today’s computer age, it is not difficult to do exhaustive back ground searches on someone. Therefore, never try to hide bad information by thinking that it is not important, relevant or will be discovered. Many things like why you were fired from McDonald’s when you were 17 are not relevant. They will never be brought up in trial, but they are discoverable. When you lie about an event that is not relevant, you make it relevant because you put your credibility at issue. So always tell the truth.

9. Body movements during an accident.
The movement of a person’s body during an accident is very difficult to judge by the individual, because so many different factors come into play. I cannot begin to tell you the number of clients who have been in a car and rear ended by another vehicle who swear that they went forward immediately after an accident. In general, a person’s body is stationary in space in relationship to their car. When the car is hit, the body does not respond to the impact, it is the car that is being pushed by the impact in relationship to the body. Therefore, when a vehicle is hit from behind, the person’s first movement is backward in the seat as the car is being pushed forward from underneath them. When a vehicle hits another vehicle with is front end, the car abruptly slows causing the person to initially go forward.

10. Trying to out think the defense attorney.
The most common error by any person giving a deposition is trying to out think the attorney asking the questions. This is very difficult to do and commonly just distracts you from truthfully answering questions. When a deposition occurs, an attorney is not only looking for answers to questions, but is gauging your credibility, forthrightness, and your intelligence, all things that a jury will eventually do. If you come across as hesitant, combative or evasive, this will affect your credibility. So always simply tell the truth.

This list of the top ten traps to avoid in a personal injury deposition is designed to help educate victims of automobile, motorcycle or truck accidents. There are many other issues that may come into play depending on the circumstances of your case. Always discuss your case with your attorney in order to properly prepare for your deposition. If you don’t have an attorney, contact the lawyers at Rue & Ziffra, P.A.

Ten Traps To Avoid In Your Personal Injury Deposition
Written by: Allan L. Ziffra, Esq
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Permanent Hearing Loss from Airbag Deployments in Auto Accidents

The Introduction of Automobile Safety Features

With the invention of the automobile followed the inevitable occurrence of auto accidents. As a result, manufacturers and scientists have been developing ways to minimize injuries to people involved in car accidents. New safety features are developed and introduced almost yearly in an attempt to reduce and ultimately eliminate injuries to occupants of automobiles during an accident. Such safety developments include anti-lock brakes, head rests, shatter proof windows, seat belts and airbags.

Airbags are a type a vehicle restraint system that was first introduced in the 1970’s and became a common feature in most vehicles in the early 1990’s. Airbags are designed to rapidly inflate during a car crash to prevent the occupants from striking the interior of the vehicle compartment. More modern luxury vehicles now have multiple airbags, including side impact airbags, knee airbags, rear curtain airbags and even seat belt airbags. No one will dispute that airbags (for the most part) have saved countless lives and minimized injuries to thousands of people who were involved in car accidents, especially those who were not wearing their seat belts. However, with most scientific advances there are always some unintended negative consequences. This is the same with airbags.

The Unintended Consequences of Airbags

It has been estimated that there have been over two million airbag deployments in the last 10 years. Modern airbags fully deploy in approximately 20-30 milliseconds, with an incredible amount of speed and force that is necessary to deploy it quickly enough to have it inflate before the vehicle occupant strikes the steering wheel or dashboard during an automobile accident. However, deploying an object at such an incredible speed and force often comes with a cost. From an orthopedic standpoint, studies have shown there has been an increase in broken sternums, broken ribs, forearm fractures and shoulder injuries as a result of the power of the inflating airbag. However, studies also show that there is another, more unexpected result from this phenomenon: the effect that airbags sometimes have on an occupant’s hearing.

Hearing Loss

The amount of noise associated with airbag deployment from a car accident varies with the type, size and location of the airbag. Deployment of a driver’s side front airbag will generate mean peak sound pressure levels of approximately 160 dB (decibels). A passenger side front airbag will generate mean peak sound pressure level of 168 dB, while dual airbag deployments create a mean peak sound pressure level of 170 dB. When you compare these with the level of decibels that can cause hearing loss, the problem becomes evident. Studies have shown that the pain threshold from noise is about 140Db and that a single exposure to sound pressure of this level can cause permanent, severe hearing loss. The most recent development of side airbags as optional equipment in some luxury vehicles has only enhanced this problem. The deployment of a side airbag generates a mean peak sound air pressure of 178 dB. That is more than 20% higher than the level necessary to cause permanent severe hearing loss. Add in the fact that the side air bag deploys closer to the ear and the danger becomes escalated.

The Reality of Airbag Effects in Automobile Accidents

The following is a post from a chat line on the Hearing Loss Web. It began when a young person said (in part):

“Last week I was involved in what should have been a minor car accident. I wasn’t paying attention and gently hit the car in front of me, which was stopped for a light. “What happened next was terrifying. The inside of the car seemed to explode in a deafening roar. I had unimaginable pain in both ears and considerable bleeding from my ear canals. I also had a very loud ringing and was virtually deaf.”
“I was taken to the hospital where it was quickly determined that my ear drums had ruptured. I was referred to an ENT who said they should heal in two to three weeks, but possibly with some scar tissue that would affect my ability to hear low sounds. As for the ringing, he said that could be permanent. He also said I had suffered inner ear damage that would affect my high frequency hearing, although he said it was hard to tell how much. He concluded by saying I would need to face life “hearing impaired” and may need to look at hearing aids.”
“I just can’t believe this. What has our government done in requiring airbags that leave passengers deafened from minor accidents? I have always protected my hearing and never would have thought about going to loud concerts or auto races without effective ear protection. I am only 22 and I can barely hear a conversation in a quiet room. With background noise, I am almost deaf.”

The results of researcher Richard Price’s studies indicated that 17% of the people exposed to the sound concussion from an air bag deployment in an automobile accident experienced permanent hearing loss. That is almost 1 in every 5 people in a car accident with an air bag deployment. Over the last 10 years (with 2 million air bag deployment car crashes) over 340,000 people would have suffered permanent hearing loss of some degree. The damage consists of ruptured air drums, dislocation of the delicate bones of the middle ear and major inner ear damage. This can result in hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in ears) and vertigo (dizziness).

Steps to Take After an Accident

If someone is involved in an auto accident or truck accident with an air bag deployment, it is imperative to have their ears checked. An Ortholaryngologist is an ear, nose and throat doctor that can perform an audiogram and a otoacoustic emissions test. Keep in mind that these tests should be performed within 72 hours after an accident to determine if hearing loss has occurred. An audiogram tests basic hearing levels and compares them to a norm, while an otoacoustic emission tests the function of the cochlea which is the auditory portion of the inner ear.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a car crash or truck crash that resulted in air bag deployment, it is important to have your hearing checked for any abnormalities. If you have ringing in your ears or experience dizziness, remember to seek immediate medical attention and know that you can always call an attorney for further help. Rue & Ziffra is a Florida personal injury law firm with a team of auto accident attorneys. They have over 30 years of experience handling cases for accident victims and are available to answer any questions you may have during your free consultation. For more information, please visit the Rue & Ziffra website or contact the firm by phone.

Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.

The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & ZIffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.

Permanent Hearing Loss from Airbag Deployments in Auto Accidents
Written By: Allan L. Ziffra, Esq.
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Volusia County: Where Two of the Three Most Dangerous Highways in the Country Meet

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, Interstate 95 (1-95) was deemed the most dangerous highway in the country, reporting a total of 662 fatal automobile accidents between 2004 and 2008. This equates to one fatal accident for every 1.73 miles along I-95’s 382.15 mile stretch in the state of Florida. Another dangerous Florida highway, Interstate 4 (1-4), ranked third in the country for most fatal motor vehicle accidents. It has seen one fatal accident for every 1.58 miles along its 132.39 mile stretch.

Volusia County, which is home to 496,000 people, is Florida’s eighth largest county by population. It is also the only county in Florida that maintains long stretches of both Interstate 4 and Interstate 95. I-95 stretches 38 miles through Volusia County, running south from the Flagler County border just north of State Road 100 to the Brevard County border near Oak Hill, Florida. The 27 mile stretch of I-4 runs from the Seminole County border at the St. Johns River until it intersects with I-95 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

These two long stretches of roadway, as well as their point of intersection in South Daytona, create the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country for automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents and truck accidents.

Although these stretches of roadway in Volusia County are dangerous all year round, they are generally more hazardous in the summer when more travelers are on the road. According to Road Safe America, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is traditionally the most dangerous time of the year on America’s highways. For Volusia County, this means that more drivers occupy already congested highways during this time, many of whom are from out of state and unfamiliar with Florida roadways.

This summer driving season, it is important that you take basic steps to protect yourself and your family from being involved in an automobile accident on an already dangerous road. Some simple steps you can take to avoid an accident on two of the country’s most dangerous highways which converge in Volusia County include:

  1. Always wear your seatbelt. Even in the most devastating type of automobile accident, wearing a seatbelt can help preserve lives.
  2. Make sure every occupant of your vehicle is wearing a seatbelt.
  3. Make sure children are in age appropriate car seats or booster seats.
  4. Do not drink and drive. Even consuming one alcoholic beverage can impair your ability to competently operate a motor vehicle.
  5. Do not use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. This includes talking, texting or doing any other mobile activity where your attention is directed elsewhere but on the road in front of you.
  6. Do not drive aggressively. Follow all of the rules of the road when driving on a roadway (such as following and passing at a safe distance) and steer clear of other aggressive drivers.
  7. Do not drive in a hurry. Leave plenty of time to safely get to your destination.

For more information about what to do if you have been involved in an auto accident, motorcycle accident, or truck accident, contact the Volusia County accident lawyers at Rue & Ziffra for a free consultation. All of our clients’ claims are handled by attorneys knowledgeable in the legal processes surrounding automobile accidents and other types of personal injury cases.

Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.

The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.

Volusia County: Where Two of the Three Most Dangerous Highways in the Country Meet
Written By: Allan L. Ziffra, Esq.
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Driving Under the Influence of Mobile Phones

Distracted While Driving

Using a mobile phone while driving has become almost second nature for many drivers, but it is proving to be a dangerous task. Over the last 15 years, the number of cell phone subscribers has increased by 1,262.4%, among who are also drivers on our roads. The use of cell phones while driving has led to an epidemic in auto accidents (called the “distracted while driving” phenomena). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers distracted driving to include engaging in such activities as: conversing with other occupants in the car, using a cell phone and other electronic devices (such as a GPS), eating, drinking, smoking, reaching for an object, adjusting the radio or environmental controls and utilizing computers and DVD players.

In 2011 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report on distracted driving fatalities for 2009. It was reported that 5,474 people were killed in car crashes by distracted drivers. Of these, 995 accident victims were killed by drivers distracted specifically by cell phone usage.

Driving while distracted is estimated to contribute as much as 13% of all traffic crashes in the United States, while other studies put this figure as high as 25%. A 2002 Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that as many 330,000 people are injured every year as a result of drivers using cell phones.

Shocking Statistics

The statistics associated with cell phone usage and auto accidents is nothing short of shocking. In 2008 it was estimated that, at any given moment, over 800,000 Americans were making calls, texting, emailing or using a smart phone application while driving during the day.

A recent US Department of Transportation Consumer Reports study recently showed that:

  • 63% of people under the age of 30 admitted to driving while using a cell phone
  • 30% admitted to sending a text message while driving
  • 56% of teenagers admitted to talking on cell phones while behind the wheel
  • 48% of American children between the age of 12 and 17 said that they had been a passenger in a car while the driver was texting
  • 34% of American teenagers between the age of 12 and 17 admitted to text messaging while driving
  • 21% of all fatal car crashes involving American teenagers between the age of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage in one form or another
  • 50% of all drivers between the ages of 12 and 14 texting while driving
  • The risk of an auto or truck accident is 23 times more likely while texting

Based on a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI):

  • Of all cell phone related tasks – including talking, dialing, or reaching for the phone – texting while driving is the most dangerous.
  • Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near crash events directly related to talking on a cell phone or texting.
  • A car driver dialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-distracted driver.
  • A driver reaching for a cell phone or any other electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to experience a car crash.
  • A car driver talking on their phone is 1.3 times more likely to get into an accident.
  • A truck driver texting while driving is 23.2 times more likely to get into an accident than a trucker paying full attention to the road.
  • A truck driver dialing a cell is 5.9 times more likely to crash.
  • A trucker reaching for a phone or other device is 6.7 times more likely to experience a truck accident.
  • For every 6 seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds with their eyes off the road. This makes texting the most distracting of all cell phone related tasks.

As you can see from these statistics, car crashes have taken the lead as the number one cause of teen deaths. Because of increased cell phone usage by teen drivers, teens are also trending to have three times more fatal accidents as other drivers.

Drunk Driving vs. Distracted Driving

A 2003 study by the University of Utah measured driver response time comparing alcohol intoxicated drivers and drivers using a cell phone. The study found that cell phone users were 20% slower in brake onset time and applied 20% less braking force than drunk drivers. The study concluded that cell phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers while operating a motor vehicle. This explains why nearly 80% of all car accidents are caused by driving while distracted while drunk drivers account for 33% of all auto accidents in the United States.

Restricting Cell Phone Use While Driving

A new Nationwide Insurance Company study reported that four out of 10 Americans say they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver distracted by their cell phone. This has become the driving force for a change in public sentiment showing varying degrees of support for different types of restrictions on cell phone usage while driving.

Below are some statistics regarding distracted driving restrictions:

  • 80% of drivers support some type of cell phone use or restriction
  • 80% of drivers support a ban on text messaging while driving
  • 80% of drivers support a ban on emailing while driving
  • 70% of drivers believe that the laws should apply to all drivers, not specific age groups

Practice Safety When Driving

The age of technology is here to stay. When the automobile was introduced in 1769 (recorded as the first vehicle to move under its own power) the first auto accident was soon to follow. The subsequent injuries to millions of people from car accidents led to a host of new safety inventions and motor vehicle laws. Now the introduction of the cell phone and the increase in “driving while distracted” auto accidents and truck accidents has created the need for safety devices and laws for the motoring public (such as limiting the more dangerous aspects, like texting, of this new technology).

It is important for everyone to set a good example for our children and not use cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Educating our children regarding the risks of driving while distracted is just as important as educating our children about driving under the influence.

For more information on automobile safety, or if you have been involved in an auto accident or truck accident as a result of a distracted driver, the Florida accident law firm of Rue & Ziffra is here to help. We have a staff of 8 attorneys knowledgeable in various aspects of personal injury law ready to take your free consultation.

Rue & Ziffra proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg. The firm handles many areas of personal injury, including auto accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.

The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.

Driving Under the Influence of Mobile Phones
Written By: John D. Rue, Esq.
Author: Webmaster / Number of views () / Comments (0)
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Wearing Your Seatbelt is More Important Than You Think!

According to Florida Statute Section 316.614 (4) , it is unlawful for any person:(a) To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device pursuant to s. 316.613, if applicable; (b) To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless the person is restrained by a safety belt; and (5) It is unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt when the vehicle is in motion.

This means that, for the most part, wearing your seatbelt while operating or riding in a motor vehicle is not an option. We all know that the practical reason for obeying this law is because wearing a seatbelt can help prevent a person from sustaining life-threatening injuries in a crash.

But there is also another line found within the Florida Safety Belt Law that may help solidify your reasoning for buckling up. Line 10 of Florida Statute Section 3116.614 states: A violation of the provisions of this section shall not constitute negligence per se, nor shall such violation be used as prima facie evidence of negligence or be considered in mitigation of damages, but such violation may be considered as evidence of comparative negligence, in any civil action. Based on this part of the statute, if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and are trying to receive benefits based on the other driver’s negligence, you may be considered partly negligent for your injuries if you fail to comply with this seatbelt law. Although the other driver may be completely at-fault for causing the crash, they can successfully plead that your failure to wear your seatbelt was unreasonable and that it helped cause the injuries you sustained in the accident.

If this is so, you may lose out on receiving the full monetary benefits a judge awards you.

So, do your part for you and your passengers by making sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt. Don’t put your life (and potential benefits!) in jeopardy by failing to buckle up.

The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.

Wearing Your Seatbelt is More Important Than You Think!
Written By: Luis Gracia, Esq.
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