You’ve filed a personal injury lawsuit, and now your attorney tells you that the adverse counsel wants to take your deposition. You’ve probably heard the word deposition before, but what exactly is it, and what part does it play in your personal injury case?
What Is a Deposition?
Under the rules of civil procedure, each side in a lawsuit has the right to conduct depositions of the opposing party. A deposition is a method that the opposing attorney uses to discover what you know about your own case through a series of verbal questions he or she will ask you.
Your attorney will represent you at the deposition, which is typically held in a law firm’s conference room or some other convenient venue agreed upon by both sides. A court reporter will be present to take down everything that is said at the deposition, and sometimes a video of the deposition is made also, especially if it is likely that the matter will go to trial.
The difference between a deposition and just sitting down and talking about the details of your case is that you will be under oath and must swear to tell the truth. Also, the deposition may later be introduced as evidence at trial. Depositions are usually taken after your case has been filed in court but before the actual trial.
Why Is My Deposition Being Taken?
Because most personal injury cases are settled out of court and do not go to trial, your deposition might be your only opportunity to testify about the facts surrounding your accident.
A deposition is used by lawyers and insurance companies to evaluate your credibility, your demeanor, and how you will appear to a jury. A deposition can also be used to contradict any testimony later given in trial, and for this reason, it is very important that you answer the questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
How Should I Prepare for a Deposition?
Your attorney will schedule a preparatory meeting for you prior to the deposition. At this meeting your attorney won’t tell you what to say, but will discuss with you the type of questioning that he or she expects the opposing attorney to conduct. Your attorney may also tell you about the other attorney’s personality, attitude, tone of voice, pace, and general style. He or she will also be able to estimate how long your deposition will take, so that you can arrange your schedule as not to be rushed when you testify.
How Should I Conduct Myself?
It is important to always be courteous and respectful, and never angry, antagonistic, hostile, or sarcastic while being deposed. Give verbal answers that are brief and direct, and if you don’t understand the question, ask for it to be rephrased. Always think before you speak, never speculate or exaggerate your damages, and don’t offer more information than you’re being asked to provide.
Your Attorney Will Keep the Record Straight
Don’t sweat the procedural details. If the opposing counsel interrupts your answer with another question, your lawyer will recognize that you’ve been interrupted and will make the necessary comments to allow you to complete your answer. Your deposition will most likely be transcribed, so you and your attorney will be able to read it and catch any errors. He or she will know what to do if the deposition transcript is inaccurate.
Why Depositions Are Important in Personal Injury Cases
Your deposition, if properly given, can pave the way to settlement or bolster your case if it goes to trial. What you do at the deposition can help you or hurt you, depending upon your attitude, truthfulness, and appearance.
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