A deposition is a legal testimony and a key part in the discovery (or information-gathering period) in a personal injury case. A deposition allows the lawyers to gather facts, as well as investigate the claim in question. This helps the attorneys to develop a case strategy and to determine where the strengths and weaknesses are in the case.
The Purpose of The Meeting
During the interview, the plaintiff (you) will be questioned by the defense counsel (the party you are suing) about the personal injury claim. The defense wants to know the basis of his or her case in opposition to the defendant. Many ask if they can prepare for a deposition; however, other than familiarizing yourself with dates and specifics, there is no way to prepare.
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Topics and Question Categories
The deposition for a personal injury case is standard. They are broken down into four categories of questions, they are:
- Basic Background Information of Deponent: Age, Employment, Education, Family, Marital Status and Residence.
- Driving Record: Any previous accidents?
- Current Accident: How did it happen?
- Injuries Involved: What are the injuries, and how are they affecting the plaintiff’s life?
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Meeting With The Attorney Before the Session
Most litigants will have a meeting prior to their deposition, or, at least, have a telephone meeting. The goal is to cover the facts and to identify any concerns. They may go over photographs, dates and other important facts pertinent to the case. The attorney will stress how important it is to communicate and use the testimony to strengthen the case. Consequently, they might identify areas to steer clear of if possible. The attorney may remind the client of key points that need to be brought up in order to back up the case. These sessions are usually held close to the date of the deposition, as they want the information to be fresh.
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Inside the Deposition
Although it is not a battle in court, it is a legal proceeding where the parties must tell the truth. The atmosphere will not be as formal as a courtroom, but it can be a tough battle. The goal is to get more information on both sides. However, the defense attorney may be tough and try to twist words and make things appear as beneficial for their side. It’s imperative to speak only the facts. As much as possible, a person should answer with a “yes” or “no” answer. Even if the other party is combative, allow the attorney to handle it. Never retaliate or show anger in the proceedings. Remember everything that is said can and will be used against the person being deposed.
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The Importance of Telling the Truth
The defense will weigh heavily on every word spoken, thus, it is best to only answer the questions asked. Never give more information than what the legal counsel asked. Wait for the entire question to be spoken before giving an answer. Rambling and speaking in circles can be used against you. The party being deposed will be asked a series of questions. Rather than guess or speculate, it’s better to answer with an “I don’t recall.” Since the witnesses are sworn in under oath, any untruthful answers will be considered perjury. False statements and answers given during this interview can be used in court. Any statements that don’t match can be used to discredit a witness.
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After the Deposition
Once the deposition is complete, a transcript will be given to both parties. There is a court reporter at most sessions and a tape recorder. The testimonies given will be combed through and anything that helps the case will be utilized. It’s important to be professional and state the facts. Some cases settle after a deposition while the majority go on to court. Cooperation is the key.