Everything You Need to Know About Your Deposition in a Personal Injury Case

March 26 2020 | Blog
  • If you have been subpoenaed to give a deposition in relation to your personal injury case, you naturally may feel anxious. In this article, we explain what you may expect at a deposition to help you prepare and remain calm and composed throughout it.

    When an accident victim first enters the office of an attorney to discuss a potential personal injury claim, he or she may entertain the idea that the case will soon evolve into a full-fledged lawsuit. Others, though, may be more concerned with the length and unpredictable nature of a trial and would prefer to settle their claims before a lawsuit becomes necessary.

    In the majority of cases, an experienced personal injury attorney would do his or her best to achieve a just and satisfactory settlement through negotiations with the other party. However, if the other party is uncooperative or unreasonable and negotiations fall through, a lawsuit is the only option you have left to obtain compensation.

    A skilled attorney knows that the most important issue for you as an accident victim is your full physical and emotional recovery. For that reason, even though your attorney will be keen to keep you thoroughly informed about the progress of the suit and preparations for the trial, you will not become involved unless it is absolutely necessary. 

    One of these times may be at a deposition. This is a key stage of a personal injury case leading up to the lawsuit that requires the victim’s presence and cooperation in person. Many accident victims are unsure or even anxious about the deposition. Some may be afraid that they will be asked difficult, tricky questions and that they may involuntarily say things that will harm their chances for compensation. It’s thus important to know what to expect from this vital step in the personal injury case process.

    What Happens at a Deposition?

    In order to prepare well for your deposition, you first must have a clear understanding of what a deposition is, its purpose, and what it entails. It could seem like a simple question-and-answer session meant to establish and expose the key facts of the case. However, a deposition also gives attorneys on both sides the opportunity to discover and gather the most important information of the case, interview key witnesses, and question the plaintiff or defendant.

    A deposition usually takes place in the office of one of the attorneys with the lawyers of both parties present. The testimony given during a deposition is taken under oath and may be video-recorded so that it can be used later on in court in the event one of the parties is unable to testify in person at the trial. If you receive a subpoena to appear at a deposition, you are legally required to be present and give testimony.

    Your lawyer will be present with you at the deposition. It is important to remember that you have the right to confer with your lawyer at any time during the deposition. This means that you may request to speak with him or her privately regarding any question and your possible answer. You should not be afraid to assert your right to do this when you feel there is a reasonable need.

    While a deposition is not an interrogation, you should be aware that the attorney for the other party will ask you questions, intending to disprove your version of the events. Later on at the trial, the opposing attorney may try to show that you have lied or have been dishonest—in order to dismiss your testimony as evidence. Therefore, it is of tantamount importance that you never lie; answer as truthfully as you can. Neither should you give estimates or make claims that are mere conjectures. Moreover, you should never volunteer information that was not requested of you.

    Questions You May Be Asked During a Deposition

    Even though the other party’s attorney may hope to elicit an answer from you that will somehow harm your case, you shouldn’t worry too much about the questions you may be asked. The most important thing is to take a few seconds to think before you answer and to provide the most accurate and truthful answer possible, without offering details that were not yet requested.

    Still, knowing what questions to expect may be beneficial, as this will allow you to prepare beforehand and to be more composed and focused during the deposition. 

    Here are a few examples of typical subjects you may be asked about during the deposition:

    • Your background information such as name, date of birth, address, etc. (At the beginning of your deposition, you will always be asked to state this sort of general information.)
    • Questions about your health before the injury happened
    • The circumstances of the accident including date, hour, weather, and other details
    • Questions about who you talked to after the accident and what details of the accident you shared with them
    • Your injuries, medical treatment and procedures you have undergone and their cost, any ongoing rehabilitation and its cost, as well as your current health and the impact of your injuries on your private and professional life

    The Do’s and the Don’ts of a Deposition

    If you are working with a skilled and experienced attorney, he or she will no doubt give you helpful suggestions and advice during the time leading up to your deposition. This will help you prepare mentally and avoid some common mistakes that could have negative consequences for your case. 

    For example, your attorney may suggest the following list of instructions you should, by all means, follow at your deposition:

    • Pause after hearing a question to consider how you will answer.
    • Give answers that are as detailed as possible without volunteering information you were not asked about.
    • Qualify your answer each time you are asking to recall certain facts, provide quotes, or give estimates. You may, for example, say, “As far as I remember…” or, “I am not completely sure but…”
    • Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.
    • Stay as calm and polite as you can.
    • Remember your right to confer with your lawyer.

    On the other hand, here are some things you may be advised not to do:

    • Never lie or say things that may be construed as dishonest.
    • Do not omit key facts when you are directly asked about them.
    • Do not give authoritative answers about details you do not remember clearly. Never guess.
    • Remember that you are not required to accept any statements that the opposing attorney makes. If you do not agree with some information that is provided alongside the question, state your disagreement clearly before offering your answer.
    • Do not become overly comfortable or chatty. Do not engage in needless dialogue with the opposing attorney. Never joke.

    It is understandable that a deposition may be stressful. However, it is an important part of the personal injury process over which you shouldn’t be too anxious. You can rest assured that with appropriate preparation from your attorney, you will be able to remain calm and provide answers that will ultimately contribute to the success of your case.

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