What Is A Deposition?
For many personal injury victims filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries may be their first experience working with the legal system. It can feel confusing when attorneys and law professionals use terms like pleading deadlines, paper discovery, motions to dismiss, and depositions, and you’re unfamiliar with them— especially when you’re recovering from injuries.
Many personal injury victims feel apprehensive at the thought of being questioned in depositions and no wonder. It’s not something most people have experienced and the unknown is always a source of fear and worry.
Like anything else, the more you know and understand a process the more comfortable you begin to feel. We’ll explain the deposition process so you know what to expect, and you’ll handle the deposition comfortably and with confidence.
Understand the Process
Once a lawsuit starts, a process, called the “formal discovery,” begins. This process gives all parties in the lawsuit the chance to collect information related to the case. There are four types of formal discovery methods used frequently in lawsuits.
- Depositions – face-to-face questioning of one party or witness under oath to the other party involved in the dispute (see more below).
- Requests for production of evidence – one party asks the other for physical evidence related to the dispute.
- Interrogatories – written questions one party sends to the other to be answered under oath.
- Requests for admission – one party asks the other party to admit, under oath, that specific facts are true or certain documents are genuine.
Before the start of the trial, a lawyer will take the oral statement of the personal injury victim– this is called a deposition. The deposition is an opportunity for all sides to discover any weak spots in their respective cases. It allows all parties to understand the facts before the trial, so there’s no big surprise when a witness takes the stand. This also gives both parties an opportunity to prepare for ways to avoid or rebut them at trial.
Typically, depositions are held in the office of the victim’s attorney. The opposing attorney asks the personal injury victim (called the deponent) questions about the accident, their injuries, and the victim’s background. The victim is under oath and must answer all the questions truthfully.
If the victim’s lawyer disagrees with the line of questioning, the lawyer may object. Most of the time, however, the victim still has to answer the questions, despite those objections. The deponent does not ask any questions; he or she only gives answers.
A court reporter is present throughout the entire session and records the deposition word-for-word. A written transcript of the testimony is prepared later. If the deponent is very ill or otherwise unavailable, the deposition may be videotaped. The length of the deposition can vary from less than half an hour to longer than a week, depending on the severity of the case and how heavily-involved the witness is.
Depositions are very crucial to the case and what’s said at a deposition becomes very important. All deponents should listen carefully to the questions before answering and answer all questions truthfully and precisely.
While the deposition process may seem scary and intimidating, a personal injury attorney will work closely with the victim ahead of time to make him or her feel comfortable. The attorney will go over documents, dates, medical reports, and facts that are critical to the case, as well as prepare the victim by practicing, discussing anticipated questions and providing general deposition tips.