After a plaintiff files suit against a defendant and the defendant submits an answer to the court, both parties have the right to conduct discovery. Discovery is a formal investigation to find out more about the case. During this time, both parties typically conduct their depositions. A deposition is a method lawyers use to find out more information that they can use at trial and can be taken of anyone who may have relevant information pertaining to the case. During a deposition, a lawyer asks the person being deposed (known as a “deponent”) questions relating to the case.
A deposition is given under oath. The deponent raises her right hand and solemnly swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is the same oath that is administered in a court of law.
A deposition is conducted outside the courtroom and is administered by an attorney. A court reporter takes down the entire deposition so it is preserved word-for-word. If you are a party to the litigation, your attorney is also present to defend against the deposition. Your attorney can make objections to the line of questioning. Sometimes, a deposition is videotaped, so a videographer may also be present during the deposition.
A personal injury lawsuit relates to situations in which a person’s body, mind, or emotions are hurt due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Personal injury law is a part of tort law and includes wrongful death or situations where an injury is fatal. Common personal injury cases include the following
- Car accidents;
- Slip and falls;
- Injuries caused by animals (ie. Dog bites);
- Consumer product liability cases, such as defective products; and,
- Injuries to reputation from defamation or slander.
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The questions that an attorney asks during a deposition depends on the type of injury sustained. Nevertheless, in any personal injury case, the information obtained during a deposition can determine the outcome of trial. For example, if a person is claiming she broke her right ankle due to a slip and fall, but the deposition reveals that she broke her ankle two weeks prior from a tennis accident, her recovery is likely to be limited.
Personal injury depositions almost always involve some very personal questions. Below are some typical questions asked of plaintiffs claiming personal injury.
- What types of injuries and illnesses have you had during the course of your life?
- What types of lawsuits or legal claims have you previously been involved in?
- Do you have a criminal record? If so, what crimes were you convicted for?
- Who was with you when the accident happened? Were there any witnesses? (This question is asked so the attorney can subpoena other witnesses for deposition to see if they corroborate your story.)
- What is the nature of your injury?
- Are there activities you cannot do because of your injury?
- Did you see a doctor regarding your injury? At which hospital? (This question is asked so the attorney can subpoena records pertaining to your personal injury.)
Questioning will be tailored to your personal injury claim. If you are claiming injuries from an automobile accident, the attorney may ask how fast you were going, if you had any distractions (on a phone call or texting), etc.
Before your deposition, your attorney should brief you on what to expect. She may even give you sample questions that may be asked so you aren’t caught completely off guard. You should also review documents related to your personal injury claim to help refresh your memory regarding the facts surrounding the lawsuit.
Get a good night’s rest and make sure to answer only the question asked. Giving long answers that include details not asked of you will lead to further questioning. “How fast were you driving when you got into the car accident?” should only be answered with the appropriate miles per hour. Revealing, “I was only going 20 MPH. I remember because I was texting at the time of the accident and I only text when I’m going 20 MPH or below” will lead to extra questioning.
If you are a plaintiff and are subpoenaed for a deposition, it is to your advantage to hire a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can help you prepare for the deposition, and can be there during the questioning to assist you.