A deposition is an important and useful resource to gain information and discover potential evidence for a case. Depositions typically take place during the pre-trial “discovery” phase of a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury lawsuit. This means that if a deposition is conducted, it will happen after the lawsuit has been filed but before it reaches the settlement or trial stage.
During a deposition, which is formatted like a question-and-answer session, a person arrives at a specified date and time and is sworn in, before their own attorney, and the attorney for the person they are suing, asks them questions under oath. A court reporter is often present to create a record, but if they are not, then the deposition will be recorded via an audio or video recording device. The attorney who requested the deposition will receive a copy of the recorded deposition, however, the opposing attorney will not unless they specifically request it. In some, but not all, cases, the deposition testimony may be admissible in court. There are several reasons why depositions might be helpful to personal injury cases, and we’re going to delve into them below.
Personal Injury Deposition
Depositions can be hugely beneficial in a personal injury lawsuit. In the discovery phase, you and your attorney will aim to gather as much information as possible about the case, including discussing the details of the incident and examining and gathering evidence such as hospital records, income records, and police or incident reports (if applicable). Another course of action that is often taken in the discovery phase is deposing people on the other side of the lawsuit, namely the at-fault party. Your personal injury attorney can discuss this option with you, including whether they think it’s worth exploring and who specifically should be deposed (if just the at-fault party or if there were any other eyewitnesses or people involved). You may also be deposed, which your attorney will prepare you for. Thankfully, a deposition will never come as a surprise, as the other party is required by law to notify you and your attorney of your impending deposition (some states even require a minimum of 30 days’ notice for a deposition).
What Happens at a Deposition?
As mentioned above, when either side of a personal injury case decides to schedule a deposition, they must notify all parties involved well in advance. Depositions can be held anywhere, however, more often than not attorneys agree to schedule them at a law office or court reporter’s office. At the start of the deposition, the person being deposed (the deponent) will be sworn in, after which the opposing party’s attorney will begin asking questions. The deponent’s attorney will have the opportunity to ask questions as well. They can also object to questions being asked by the opposing party’s attorney. In most cases, the deponent will be required to answer the questions, as objections are only noted on the record during depositions (there is no judge to rule on the objection). The questions a deponent can expect to be asked vary depending on the case, but a common strategy employed by attorneys is to ask broad questions in the hopes the deponent will provide a long answer, admitting information they can then use to their advantage. For this reason, your personal injury attorney will likely advise you to keep your answers short and sweet. After the deposition is over, the deponent and their attorney will have the chance to review the questions and responses given, and can even make changes to the responses, however, all changes will go on the official transcript. We suggest speaking with your attorney about the benefits of reviewing your deposition record. In some cases, such as if you wish to provide clarity to some of your answers, it can be beneficial.
When is a Deposition Necessary?
There are several reasons why a deposition may be necessary for a personal injury lawsuit. For example, a deposition may help you and your attorney obtain crucial facts about the case or gather information about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party’s case. Depositions can also help determine the specific details of how and when the accident or injury occurred or figure out how credible or sympathetic a plaintiff or witness will come off if the case went to trial.
There are also situations in which your attorney may be required to compel a witness to attend a deposition. As depositions are lengthy and stressful, most people do not voluntarily agree to be deposed. However, if the person has key information or knowledge relating to the lawsuit, your attorney can compel them to testify through a subpoena. Subpoenas are served through service of process, which in most cases, means hiring a process server. (Though this sounds complicated, an experienced personal injury attorney will be very familiar with this.) A subpoena essentially commands a person to appear at a specific place and time to give testimony regarding your case.
Though it can seem daunting, a personal injury deposition is not worth stressing over, especially with a skilled personal injury attorney by your side. Your attorney will guide you through the entire deposition process and will let you know the questions you can expect to be asked. They can also help explain which questions you are required to respond to, and may even instruct you on how best to respond to certain questions (short and concise answers are usually the best advice an attorney can offer). They can also help you review your answers following the deposition. Alternatively, if you have not been deposed, then your attorney may suggest that it’s worth deposing the at-fault party or someone else involved in the personal injury case. They will explain the benefits of deposing said person, such as bringing to light new facts or information about the case. Personal injury attorneys like those at AAESQ Law have been privy to hundreds of depositions throughout their careers, so you can rest easy knowing that they know exactly what they’re doing. Given the stressful nature of depositions (people often say that they feel like cross-examinations in a courtroom), we always recommend hiring a personal injury attorney. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are no upfront costs or unexpected fees. We only get paid if we win your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury experts.
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