What is a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case?
A deposition is a way for the parties to gather evidence, examine the strength of their relative cases, and determine how to best proceed in litigation. A deposition occurs after your lawsuit has been filed but before your lawsuit goes to trial so that lawyers can gather first-hand accounts from those involved about what happened during the incident in question. It preserves evidence, builds evidence for the case, and examines the relative positions of each party when it comes to the case. Both sides of a personal injury lawsuit can use a deposition to gather more information from the other party.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is an oral testimony given under oath as part of a legal proceeding. A deposition is not held in a courtroom before a judge. However, the person being deposed is still under oath and legally obligated to tell the truth. At a deposition, a witness or involved party appears at a specified time and place and gives testimony under oath, usually with a court reporter present. The reporter will record the deposition and transcribe it so it can be used in document format during a trial.
Depositions typically occur in an attorney’s office during the discovery phase of a personal injury case (after the filing of a lawsuit, but before trial or settlement).
In all of the following types of cases, a deposition will likely be part of the proceedings if pre-trial negotiations are not successful and the case has to be taken to trial.
(This list is just a sampling of the types of cases)
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slips and falls
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
How a Deposition Works In an Injury Case
When either side of the personal injury case (plaintiff or defendant) wants to schedule a deposition, they must give reasonable notice to all parties according to local court rules. The deposition can take place in almost any location. Many attorneys choose to hold depositions at the law firm office or at a court reporter’s office.
Similar to a trial, one attorney typically begins the questioning, and other attorney has the chance to follow up with their own questions. During questioning by an examining attorney, opposing attorneys can object to certain questions and subject matter. Unlike a trial, there is no judge to rule immediately on objections so the objection is noted on the record, but the questioning proceeds. A deponent can only be instructed to not answer a question in very limited circumstances.
Why Is a Deposition Important?
Depositions are used during the discovery process of your lawsuit and offer both sides the opportunity to acquire vital information to be used in the trial process or while trying to negotiate a settlement before actually going to trial. It also creates a record of the witness’ statement. If the witness changes their story later, the inconsistency is likely going to become a big issue in their credibility and the case. In addition, with skilled deposition practice, you can make your case stronger.
The deposition process narrows the contested issues and reveals the evidence to both sides. By conducting depositions strategically, you can show the other side that it’s in their best interests to reach a fair settlement.
How to Prepare for a Deposition
If you have been asked to participate in a deposition, there are ways you can prepare ahead of time for the most successful session. Work with a lawyer for in-depth information about what to expect.
- Review the Facts
The deposition will be your opportunity to provide testimony on the record as to the events that caused the accident. Establish the facts and circumstances in your own words and ahead of time. That way, the words will come to you even if you are nervous during the deposition.
- Go Over Possible Questions with Your Attorney
Your lawyer has years of experience with depositions. They can give you example questions the attorney will most likely ask you, so you can prepare answers in advance.
- Take Your Time
Do not let anything, including the attorney asking the questions, pressure you during a deposition. Take your time listening and understanding the questions, as well as answering them clearly and succinctly. You can ask for breaks whenever you wish.
As we have described above, you will be asked a variety of questions in a variety of categories to create a clear picture of what happened. But to get you more familiar with the types of questions asked at a deposition, here are some example questions you may be asked during a deposition:
- Have you had any major injuries in the past?
- What injuries did you sustain in the accident?
- Can you describe the events leading up to the accident?
- What were you doing immediately before the accident?
- What did you do immediately after the accident?
- How were your injuries treated?
- How did your injuries affect your ability to work?
- How did your injuries affect your daily life?
- What are the long-term consequences of your injuries?
- Have you ever filed a personal injury lawsuit before?
- What costs have you incurred because of the accident?
- Who did you talk to after the accident and what did they say?
- What injuries did you suffer?
- Were you treated right away?
- Who has treated your injuries?
- What did your follow-up care require?
Of course, this is just a few examples of some major questions that will be asked. There are likely to be many more general and follow-up questions for clarification.
What Happens After a Deposition?
After a deposition, the parties may act on what they learn and observe during the deposition. Either party may:
- Approach the court to compel testimony if the person being deposed objects to answering a question
- Seek a copy of the deposition from the party that keeps the audio-visual recording
- Use information that they learn in the deposition to build more evidence
- Seek to admit the recording at trial if the witness is unavailable for trial
- Use the information to evaluate their stance and consider settling the case
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help Me During a Deposition?
A personal injury attorney’s goal is to make sure that you are as comfortable and prepared as possible for your deposition. Your attorney will let you know everything to expect, how to answer questions, and help you to practice answering possible questions so that you feel prepared. Your attorney will also be present during the deposition so that you feel supported and so that they can object to irrelevant or misleading questions.
Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.
Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.