If you’re involved in a personal injury case, for any reason, a deposition is an important step that can help add merit to your case. It is understandable to have little to no information about deposition and feel anxious about having to attend one. Let’s try to get through the basics of a deposition.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a simple Question-and-Answer session, an activity conducted as a fact-finding mission to gather evidence and witness statements before a case goes to trial. Attorneys from both sides are allotted time to as questions to people they deem central to understanding the details of the case.
Depositions usually take place in a conference room at the office of the attorney requesting it. Both parties, as well as witnesses speaking in the depositions, are allowed to be present with their lawyers. Deposition statements, as well as questions and answers, are usually video recorded. These recordings can be used instead of living testimonies, with the judge’s permission in the event a party is unable to testify in person.
What Kind of Questions are Asked in a Deposition?
The usual questions that both sides get asked in a deposition cover the following areas:
- General background information such as name, address, date of birth, who is in your family, education, work history, etc.
- Information about your physical condition before the injury being discussed in this case occurred. This would include previous injuries, health conditions, etc.
- Information about the accident – how did it happen? Who were the witnesses? Did you talk to anyone after the accident? What did they say?
- Information about your medical treatment and physical condition after the injury occurred. This will include injuries noticed right after the accident, treatment, the details of the doctor and hospital you were taken to, the tests and procedures recommended, details on recovery and costs incurred.
- Information about the impact of the injuries on your life. What are you no longer able to do? What are you able to do but only with difficulty?
10 Things to Remember About a Deposition
1. Don’t Get Too Comfortable
A deposition is supposed to follow a strict ‘question-answer-follow up questions format. Do not at any point get chatty and elaborate in your conversation with the opposing counsel. It is expected that a deposition environment is tense. So, if at any point you start feeling too comfortable or relaxed, remind yourself that everything you say in there, relevant or otherwise, can be used against you.
2. Give Long Detailed Answers
A deposition is a good opportunity to explain your side of the story, on record, in a detailed manner. Use it well to give elaborate answers that highlight your truth. Opposing counsel may try to intimidate you by asking relevance, but don’t let that get to you. A little bit of practice for this may be advisable.
3. Pause After Hearing the Question to Reflect
A deposition room can rake up anxiety that causes you to speak out the first thought that comes to your mind. Refrain from letting this happen. When you are asked a question, wait for a second, reflect on all the information you have that is relevant, use the right words to frame your thoughts and then offer a clear concise answer.
4. Don’t Make Up Answers. If You Don’t Remember, Just Say So
Often times in the aftermath of an accident, a person develops memory blocks from the trauma experienced. Due to this, you may not have a complete recollection of all the facts and details asked to you by opposing counsel. In such cases, never make up answers. “I do not recollect” or “I’m afraid I don’t remember” is a perfectly suitable answer to offer. This may usually be followed by your lawyer justifying the reason for the blank memory
5. Always Be Cognizant of Your Basic Needs
In the tense environment presented at a deposition, it is easy to forget your needs of food, water or the restroom. However, it is essential that you treat yourself as a priority and ask for breaks when needed, as your fitness and comfort is paramount to getting the right information that can build the case
6. Be Aware and Clarify Estimations and Quotes
You may at times be asked to estimate a certain distance, the time of the accident, the temperature on the day, etc. You may also be asked to recollect words, dialogues said by people around you, or to you. In such cases, always clarify your estimations and be careful to not make up quotes based on the information you remember. Unless you remember the exact details (words, time, distance or anything else) include “as far as I remember” or “I’m not 100% sure but taking a guess here”.
7. Remain Calm and Polite
Sometimes you may find yourself feeling the pressure of the opposing counsel. Alternately, you may be tempted to cut the other party while they offer their side of the story. You must refrain from all such actions and remain polite and calm throughout the deposition. Your frame of mind, behavior as well as an attitude can also be brought in while making an argument against you. Also remember to not crack jokes in a deposition, as that can be considered as a sign of not being genuine and serious about the case.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Say, “I Don’t Understand” or “I’m Not 100% Sure What You’re Asking”
Sometimes, the language used by opposing counsel includes technical terms or language of the law that you are not familiar with. In such events, clearly state that you do not understand the question being asked. Remember, throughout the deposition, you are allowed to consult your own lawyer, for clarity or assistance. Don’t fall prey to assumptions.
9. Don’t Engage with Opposing Counsel or Attorney Unless Necessary
Limit your dialogue with the opposing counsel to the minimum necessary. Never speak with them about your case or other topics, and never engage with them in the absence of your lawyer.
10. Always Tell the Truth
Possibly the most important thing to remember is to always speak the truth. Your lawyer can only and so far protect you if you have shared the complete and truthful version of your story.
Depositions can make or break your personal injury cases. The points covered here are only the basics. There are a hundred more things that you need to think about before, during and after deposition, things that an experienced lawyer can train you to be cognizant of. If you’ve been in an accident or are privy to a personal injury case in Atlanta, schedule a consultation session with attorney Riah Greathouse. We will gladly answer all your questions and help you build a winning case.