Depositions are a part of nearly every pre-trial discovery process. Depositions are used to ensure there are no surprises at trial and are to help the parties understand your perspective of all the facts in your car accident personal injury claim. A deposition is the taking of testimony of a witness, under oath, before a court reporter so that testimony can be preserved for possible later use at trial.
Understanding the Deposition Process
When you file a personal injury lawsuit related to a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, the opposing attorney will be allowed to take your deposition and the depositions of witnesses who may be involved in the trial or have relevant information. Witnesses may include passengers, other drivers, mere witnesses to the accident, and any treating healthcare providers who will be providing evidence regarding the severity of your injuries. Your attorney will also be allowed to depose any witnesses the defense intends to call.
A deposition typically takes places in an attorney's office. You will be asked a series of questions relating to your background and history, the facts of the lawsuit and the injuries suffered. Your answers will be recorded by a court reporter. The length of the deposition varies depending upon the complexity of the case, with a simple deposition taking about 30 minutes and a more involved case can last many hours. California limits some depositions to no more than seven hours unless a court order allows the deposition to go longer.
Testimony given during a deposition can be introduced as evidence at trial, and it can be used if the testimony varies from the testimony being provided during the trial. The use of a deposition to impeach a witness or to contradict testimony, is often done to call into question the credibility of the witness so the jury will not believe what the witness has to say.
How to Prepare for Your Deposition
Your attorney will help you prepare for your deposition based on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. However, the following general tips can also be helpful:
- Dress professionally. A deposition is not a conversation with an old friend. To make a good impression, you should look like you are attending a job interview. Dress neatly and conservatively. Some depositions are recorded by video so you want to look your best.
- Listen carefully. Even though you may be nervous, listen carefully to make sure you understand the question. If you are not sure what is being asked of you, you may ask for clarification. Common questions that will be asked in a deposition include questions about your personal identity, health, employment, past criminal charges, how the accident happened, and what injuries you received.
- Be honest. Lying in a deposition is a serious offense. It is considered lying under oath. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is okay to admit that you do not know or can't remember. Don't try to guess as to what the answer should be unless you actually know the answer. Don’t just say what you think the attorney wants you to say or what you think will help your case. If you make a mistake and accidentally provide an incorrect or misleading response, admit the error and clarify your answer.
- Stick to the facts. Although you need to be honest during your deposition, you do not need to provide any more information than what is requested. Only answer the specific question that is being asked and resist the urge to speculate on issues such as who was at fault for the incident. Don't tell jokes or use sarcasm during your deposition. Humor is inappropriate and risks being misinterpreted.
- Ask for a break if you need it. If you are starting to feel flustered or the deposition has taken longer than expected, you are allowed to ask for a break. Food, water, and rest can help make sure you have the mental focus necessary to get through the process. If you are on any medications which might affect your ability to recall the facts, you must tell your lawyer in advance.
- Keep your cool. In a deposition, the opposing counsel can sometimes come across as combative or aggressive. If this happens, take a deep breath and count to 10 before proceeding. It is never a good idea to lose your temper in a deposition. Strive to be polite and respectful at all times. You are being evaluated as a witness and whether the opposing attorney thinks the jury will like or dislike you.
The Value of Experienced Legal Representation
Whenever you are attending a deposition, it is smart to have an attorney who can advocate for your interests. In addition to helping you prepare for the deposition, your attorney can intervene if the opposing counsel asks inappropriate or overreaching questions.
The legal team at Inland Empire Law Group has
extensive experience assisting California residents in receiving the personal i
njury compensation they need to move forward with their lives after suffering serious car accident injuries. Since our firm handles cases before will file a lawsuit through trial, we have the experience of being involved in thousands of depositions. We do our best to help prepare our clients for their depositions so they will be able to provide the best testimony they can provide in their case. If you want a legal team on your side that can take your case from the beginning through trial, if necessary, you will want our team fighting for your rights. Call us today, or submit your case information on our website to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Appointments are available at our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices. Call now (909) 481-0100.