What is a Deposition?
A deposition is oral testimony taken outside of court. A court reporter places the witness under oath and records each answer and question during the deposition for the official record. The attorney who scheduled the deposition will ask the witness questions, and the other attorney will be able to cross-examine.
Depositions are common during the discovery process as each party gathers information and evidence about the case.
A deposition may be used to obtain witness testimony from:
- The parties to the lawsuit
- Expert witnesses
- Other individuals who might have information related to the allegations in the personal injury lawsuit
If you receive a subpoena for a deposition, do not ignore it. Subpoenas are court orders. Failing to appear at a deposition can result in contempt charges for failing to obey a court order.
Witnesses are permitted to consult legal counsel about depositions. If you are not a party to the lawsuit, you still have the right to speak with an attorney before appearing at a deposition.
What Can You Expect at a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case?
Generally, the attorney conducting the deposition holds it at their office. However, a deposition could occur in a court reporter’s office or another location. Typically, the attorneys and clients for both parties can attend the deposition.
Before the attorney begins questioning, the court reporter places the witness under oath. The court reporter may explain that the witness needs to use verbal responses instead of nodding or shaking their head. Also, the witness should answer with a “yes or no” instead of saying uh-huh or making other noises in response to a question.
Deposition questions for parties in a personal injury lawsuit center around how the accident or injury occurred. The attorney may ask specific questions about what the person remembers about the accident. In addition, the lawyer may ask for details about what happened the day before the accident.
When the defendant’s lawyer takes the plaintiff’s deposition, they generally ask questions about:
- How the injury occurred
- Personal questions about their education, career, skills, work history, home life, etc.
- How the injury impacted their daily life and activities
- What they cannot do now that they could do before the accident due to their injuries
- Whether they are aware of any eyewitnesses
- The types of damages they incurred because of the accident
- Questions about their health before and after the accident
- Whether their quality of life has changed since the accident
It can be frustrating and embarrassing to discuss some of the information requested during a deposition. However, it is essential that you answer honestly because your statements could be used in court if you try to change your story or the other party’s attorney discovers you were exaggerating or being untruthful.
Tips for Answering Deposition Questions in a Personal Injury Case
Being deposed for the first time can make people nervous because they do not know what to expect. Your attorney will help you prepare for the deposition by explaining the process and reviewing questions and answers that you might expect.
Your lawyer may give you specific instructions and guidance for a deposition.
Some deposition tips include:
- Be honest when answering deposition questions. You are under oath. Providing false testimony could result in perjury charges.
- Avoid becoming angry or defensive. Try to remain calm. Recognize that the attorney might try to upset you to get you to blurt out information.
- Only answer the question that’s asked. Do not volunteer information. Give clear, concise responses.
- If a question concerns evidence or documents, ask to see the item before answering questions about it.
- Never guess or estimate. Tell the attorney if you do not know or remember the answer to a question.
- Do not answer questions you don’t understand. Instead, ask the attorney to rephrase the question.
- If you need a break, tell your attorney. Breaks are permitted during a deposition.
Your attorney cannot tell you how to answer a question during a deposition. However, your lawyer is present to ensure that you are treated fairly, and your rights aren’t violated during the deposition.
Are There Rules That Govern How to Conduct Depositions?
Yes, federal and state rules set procedures for conducting depositions in civil cases. For example, Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs how parties conduct depositions in federal court cases. If you want to take a deposition by written questions in a federal case, you will follow the procedures set forth in Rule 31.
For Texas personal injury cases, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the Texas Rules of Evidence, and local court rules govern how parties must conduct depositions in state court cases. The rules indicate who can attend a deposition and how long attorneys can examine and cross-examine a witness. They also provide procedures for giving notice of depositions to the person being deposed and other parties.
Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Were you injured because of another person’s negligent acts? If so, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages and injuries. One of the tools a personal injury lawyer may use to collect evidence to prove your case is a deposition.
Schedule a free case evaluation and consultation with an experienced Houston personal injury attorney for more information.