What is a Deposition?
There are several stages that make up the personal injury claim process, including the pre-trial stage. This stage follows the filing of the lawsuit and often includes one or more depositions. A deposition requires a person involved in the personal injury case to give sworn testimony in front of a court reporter.
Who Attends a Deposition and How Do They Work?
Attorneys from both sides of the lawsuit are present. A court reporter also attends to make an official record of the testimony, but there is no judge present. Video and/or audio recordings are occasionally taken in depositions, so there are sometimes individuals present to record the testimony. Subpoenas are sent to those requested to provide testimony. Any person with knowledge of the facts in the case can be subpoenaed for a deposition. Deposed parties in personal injury cases are most often the plaintiff(s), the defendant(s), doctors, and witnesses.
When summoned for a deposition, you will arrive at the specified time and location in the subpoena or notice. You will be sworn in and the attorneys will ask questions about the cause, nature and extent of your injuries. You should provide honest answers to the best of your ability and not answer based on what you think the attorney is wanting to hear. Attorneys often use broad questions in the hopes the deponent will provide a lengthy answer.
Depositions are very similar to trial proceedings, as you will experience questioning from one attorney and a cross-examination by the opposing attorney. Attorneys are permitted to object to questions, just as they can during trial. However, there is no judge present to rule on the objections. The objections are instead recorded in the official transcript, but the questioning continues. There are a few limited circumstances where you may be instructed to not answer a question.
Why Are Depositions Needed?
There are several potential reasons for holding depositions in personal injury cases:
- To obtain additional facts about the case
- To evaluate a person’s ability to testify, if the case is likely to go to trial
- To gather information about the strengths and weaknesses of your case to use at trial
Depositions allow counsel to obtain additional information and confirm details, such as the timeline surrounding the incident. As an example, if you suffer injuries in a car accident due to the other driver texting and driving, your attorney would likely want to depose the opposing party to help prove their negligence. The negligent driver could be questioned about their cell phone records showing texts were sent during the time of the collision, or about their recollection of why the collision occurred and what caused it.
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