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How Do Depositions Work in a Personal Injury Case?

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Jeff Sevey

When you're involved in a personal injury lawsuit, one of the most important aspects of the case will be your deposition. Though there is plenty of weight placed on the deposition, it is a rather simple event that is really nothing more than a question-and-answer session. The opposing counsel will ask questions to learn more about your case, and a court reporter will be there to record your testimony. The transcript will then be available to be utilized at your trial.

As long as you are honest and tell the truth, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

The Purpose of a Deposition

Most people misunderstand the true purpose of a deposition. They believe that this is the time to tell their story, and they believe that they are going to get "cross-examined" by the opposing counsel. This simply isn't true.

The purpose of a deposition is simply to gather information, make that information known to both sides of the case (plaintiff and defendant), and create a record of the testimony that can be referred to when the case goes before a jury.

The opposing attorney will generally take your deposition for three reasons:

  1. To discover facts you have in your knowledge and possession regarding the events surrounding the case;
  2. To have you relate your story so that there aren’t any “surprises” at trial and to evaluate you as a witness; and
  3. To memorialize your testimony under oath to prevent you from changing your story at trial.

The Deposition Process

The deposition of the parties involved in a lawsuit is typically held at the office of the attorney for either the plaintiff or defendant, depending on who requested the deposition. You will most likely be seated in a conference room. In attendance will be your attorney, the attorney for the opposing party and a court reporter.

If there are other witnesses, besides the parties to the lawsuit, to be deposed, they will have been served a subpoena by a process server which commands them to appear at a specific location at a specific time in order to give their testimony (their knowledge about the facts of the case). Witnesses depositions will each be held at a different time, and will not be combined with your deposition.

It is natural to be nervous about being questioned, but this is a relatively informal event. If you stick to the facts of the case as you know them, you will be fine.

During the questioning by the opposing attorney, your attorney will be able to object to any question presented to you. The objection will be noted on the record, but the questioning will continue until the questioning attorney is satisfied that all the needed information has been given.

You can expect your deposition to last about one hour in length, depending on the nature of the events surrounding the accident that occurred and the number and severity of injuries that resulted. Some accident scenarios are very cut-and-dried, and others are extremely complicated. Likewise, numerous severe injuries will require more questioning, and will therefore take longer.

Reasons for Holding a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case

There are a number of reasons a deposition is necessary for a personal injury case:

  • To collect and distribute the important facts surrounding your case;
  • To assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case;
  • To discover how someone will testify at the trial; and
  • To determine the facts surrounding the injuries that have occurred.

Deposition Strategy

The information that you give, and the recording of such by the court reporter, will be referred to at the trial to make sure that you don’t change your story. The information you give can also serve to help your case. The questions at the deposition should serve to prove negligence on the part of the defendant.

The opposing attorney may do several things in order to get you to answer questions incorrectly or get you to second-guess yourself. They may schedule the deposition late in the afternoon when they know you'll be tired and wanting to be home with your family. They may stay absolutely silent for an extended period of time in order to make you uncomfortable and in the hopes that you'll try to fill the silence by divulging information that you should have kept private. There is no end to these tactics, and your attorney will be there to help you through the deposition and object to any untoward behavior by the opposing attorney.

If you are being deposed and do not have legal representation, please contact The Sevey Law Firm. Our extensive personal injury legal experience makes us the intelligent choice for your personal injury case. Call us at (916) 788-7100 or contact us online.

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