The deposition is a very important part of a car accident case. Typically, depositions happen during the discovery phase of the proceeding, before the actual trial. Much like witnesses at a trial, people being deposed have to answer questions from an attorney while under oath, but there won't be a jury or judge present. However, the deposition may be recorded, so it can be shown in court if necessary. As the plaintiff, you'll have to be deposed just like the defendant and any witnesses. Knowing what to expect at a deposition can help you prepare for the experience. Here are a few of the things that you need to know to get ready for your deposition.
Who Will Be At the Deposition?
There won't be a crowd at the deposition. You and your attorney will be there, as well as the defendant and their attorney. If the accident involved more than two vehicles, the other drivers involved will also be present with their attorneys. If there are witnesses to the accident, they may be in attendance as well.
Other than involved parties and their attorneys, the only other people present will be a court reporter and someone who can administer oaths if the court reporter cannot (in many cases, the court reporter can administer oaths as well as keep a record of the proceedings.)
When it's your turn to answer questions, it will most likely be the attorney for the defendant who is doing the questioning. Don't be intimidated by this.
What Kind of Questions Will You Have to Answer?
Each car accident is different, of course, but they tend to share similarities, too. There are common causes for accidents, common injuries that are typical for car accidents, and common treatments for those injuries. As a result, car accident lawsuits follow a pattern, and it's not too difficult to predict what kinds of questions you may have to answer.
Questions for a plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit tend to fall into three categories. First, you'll answer questions about your own personal background. You'll be asked how old you are, what your educational background is, and where you work. The attorney will also ask about your medical history, criminal background, and whether you've ever participated in a lawsuit before. The next category consists of specific questions about the accident. You'll be asked to describe the weather and traffic conditions when the accident occurred, and you'll be asked to describe yours and the other driver's actions at the time of the accident.
Finally, you'll answer questions about your injuries and your treatments. You'll need to answer questions about when your symptoms first appeared, when you first sought medical care, whether you've lost work as a result of your injuries, and how much medical debt you've incurred as a result of the accident.
How Should You Answer the Questions?
First and foremost, you should always tell the truth in a deposition. You risk perjury charges and penalties if you're caught in a lie. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't a strategy for answering the questions in a way that benefits you.
Answering defense attorney questions isn't like talking to your own lawyer. It shouldn't feel like a casual conversation, and you shouldn't reveal the answers to questions that you haven't been asked. It's fine to pause and think about the best way to answer the question accurately and succinctly before giving your response. It's normal to feel compelled to explain your answers, but you should resist the urge to do so. Yes or no questions should be answered with a "yes" or a "no" and nothing else. Open ended questions should be answered in a short sentence – if the attorney needs more detail, he or she will ask a follow up question, so there's no need to explain yourself without prompting.
If you don't remember the answer to any question, or if you don't understand a question, say so. Don't be embarrassed or shy about it. A deposition can be stressful, and the pressure can cause you to forget things. It's important to remember that once you've given an answer under oath during a deposition, you're stuck with that answer. "I don't remember" or "I don't understand the question" is better than an answer that is incorrect or misleading. The attorney questioning you can always rephrase a question so that you can better understand what they're asking, or come back to it later after you've had some time to think.
Your attorney should spend some time preparing with you before the deposition. You may even practice answering questions with your attorney role-playing as the defense attorney. If you're feeling unprepared, don't be afraid to ask your attorney for some extra help getting ready for your deposition. A lot is riding on it, and a good auto accident lawyer will do their best to ensure that you're comfortable and confident before going in to the deposition.
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