Do you need to give a deposition in your personal injury case? You should know that there is no reason to panic. It's a normal part of the litigation process - the other side is likely trying to figure out just how strong of a case you have. In order to establish yourself as a formidable witness, however, you need to know what to expect and how to behave. Here is your guide.
What Is a Deposition?
Depositions are part of the discovery process of a lawsuit. Generally speaking, by the time a case makes it all the way to a courtroom, the only people who don't know all the evidence is the judge and jury. Everyone else tries to do their research.
Depositions are formal question-and-answer sessions. While conducted in a small setting, without a judge, it is very much like being on the witness stand. You're required to swear to tell the truth, your attorney will be present to raise objections, and the other party's attorney will ask you questions. The deposition will be recorded, either in a transcript or on video.
What Is the Purpose of a Deposition?
Depositions allow both parties to gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of a case. However, perhaps the most important thing you need to understand is the opposition's purpose in asking for one.
Essentially, the opposition is trying to learn two things: what you have to say and how well you go about saying it. They want to know whatever it is you know about the circumstances before, during, and after the accident. However, they also want to know how you handle yourself under pressure, how articulate you are, how clear your testimony is, and how sympathetic a jury might be toward you.
The other side's attorney is going to try to see if you have difficulty keeping your facts straight and if you get angry easily. Both of those things can make it difficult to sway a jury, so that's something you want to prepare for in advance.
In addition, it's important to remember that whatever you say at a deposition can come back to haunt you if the case does go to trial. Since you are under oath, the opposition is allowed to use any part of your testimony during the deposition to impeach whatever you say at trial. If you are caught contradicting part of your earlier testimony, it could ruin your chances of a successful trial.
How Do You Handle a Deposition?
How Do You Handle a Deposition?
Keeping in mind that you are being examined as much as your testimony, this is what you should know about how to handle a deposition:
- Go through the process with your attorney. They will likely have specific advice that you would be wise to follow.
- Make sure that you dress appropriately. While this isn't a trial, putting your best foot forward can only help convince the opposition that a jury will like you.
- Practice a few questions and answers. Make sure that you listen to the complete question and fully understand it.
- Pause before you answer. This gives your attorney time to object or give you instructions. If your attorney objects, don't answer until you are instructed to do so.
- Do not guess at an answer. If you don't know the answer to a question, simply say so. Remember, your silence can't be used against you later but an incorrect answer can.
- Do not volunteer any information. Answer questions as succinctly as possible. It is not your job to give the opposition any information they don't think to ask.
- Never lose your temper. Do not argue, use sarcasm, joke, or raise your voice. Your attorney's job is to protect you, so let your attorney voice any protests to the line of questioning.
Finally, remember that you can ask to speak to your attorney off the record at any point. If you get flustered, confused, or have a question, do not hesitate to consult with your attorney.
If you have more questions or need assistance with a personal injury claim, please contact The Law Offices of Phillip Garrison Wedgworth for more information.