So now I’m a plaintiff in a lawsuit – why does the defense get to ask me personal questions?

Understanding Your Case – part III. 

If you are reading this, you are likely either a plaintiff (which means person who filed a lawsuit) or party to an injury lawsuit in Virginia. 

And you have been told by your Virginia attorney, that in either writing, or in what is called a deposition, the other side, the defense (the lawyer that represents the defendant doctor, nurse, hospital, bad driver) gets to ask you personal questions. 

Doesn’t seem fair or relevant to your case, and yet they still get to ask. 

Here is partner Lauren Davis’ explanation as to why they are able to ask such personal questions in your Virginia case. 

Frith & Ellerman
Lauren Davis

Why is the defense able to ask me such personal questions?

If you file a personal injury lawsuit, which includes medical malpractice, you will probably be surprised to learn how much you are opening up your personal business to others, strangers no less. 

This can include information and materials like:

Tax returns and all accompanying forms

Text messages

Photographs

Medical records not related to the injury

Past psychiatric and counseling records

Medication records

Employment records

The names and contact information of friends and family

And the list goes on…

Some defense attorneys even request all of your social media information, which is the subject of a separate paper.

In addition to seeking the types of information above, the other side is entitled to ask you questions in a more formal setting called a deposition, where you are sworn under oath.  Questions at depositions can also feel very personal and can include things like:

Marital and relationship history

Criminal background

Involvement in other legal cases

Previous bankruptcies or money difficulties

Medical conditions

Mental health diagnoses.

These are just examples.  The point is that most people feel like their privacy is being invaded when asked these sorts of questions, even when they have nothing to hide.  Most people also question why the other side is able to ask for this type of information.

Conclusion

The simple answer is that if you file a lawsuit claiming injury, the other side is entitled to information relevant to any claimed injury.  Something is relevant if it tends to make a fact more or less probable.  So, for example, if you claim you were unable to work because of an injury, the other side can obtain work records and ask questions about your work history.  Or, if you claim mental distress – like anxiety or panic attacks – the other side can investigate any previous mental health diagnoses or treatment you have had. 

It is not just about an injury you say you do have.  It may also be about what you say is not true.  For example, if you say you never missed work before an injury, the defense can obtain employment records to see if the records are consistent with that claim.  If you say your back never hurt before an accident, the defense can obtain previous medical records to try to disprove that.

Although uncomfortable, as long as you pursue a personal injury claim based on the truth and facts, disclosing personal information does not hurt your case.  In fact, it should help your case because it can show the truth about the injuries you are claiming and the effect of those injuries on your life.