If you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit as a plaintiff, a defendant, or a witness, it is likely you will be participating in an oral deposition at some point. In advance of being called for a deposition, it may be helpful for you to have a basic understanding of the process.
What is an Oral Deposition?
An oral deposition is a standard pretrial procedure conducted in conjunction with a court case.
- Depositions are used to establish what a witness or party knows about the suit and to preserve that information in a formal manner.
- Written notice of the time and place of the deposition is given ahead of time.
- A witness who is not one of the parties to the case may be subpoenaed to attend.
What Happens at a Deposition?
At the deposition, the person who is being examined is put under oath, usually by a court reporter, and the attorneys for each side will then ask questions.
- The questions and answers are recorded in writing by the New York court reporter. Sometimes, a tape recording or video of the deposition will be made.
- The lawyers for each side are given a chance to ask questions, including cross-examination questions.
- The questioning is done formally, just as it would be done in a courtroom during a trial.
- If the witness refuses to answer a question, the court might, at a later time, order the witness to answer.
- In addition, there may be objections or conversations between the lawyers.
- Everything spoken is recorded unless the attorneys agree to have a conference off the record.
What Kinds of Questions Are Asked During a Deposition?
During the deposition, a witness who is not a party to the case will probably be asked about what was seen and heard before, during or after the event which led to the personal injury claim. Such a witness may have seen, for example, the underlying traffic accident or slip and fall incident. Or, a witness may have relevant knowledge about how the injury has affected the plaintiff or what the plaintiff went through while recovering from the injury.
Who Might be Asked to Attend a Deposition?
- Doctors who have treated the plaintiff, or doctors hired by the insurance company to examine the plaintiff, can be questioned at a pretrial deposition. These doctors may be asked about any diagnosis or prognosis, about the type and cost of the treatment for the injury, and about any limitation or permanent injury suffered by the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff in a personal injury case will almost certainly have to submit to questioning at a pretrial deposition.
What Questions Will the Plaintiff Be Asked?
The plaintiff will not only be asked specifically about the injury suffered in the incident but also about any prior accidents or injuries. The defendant’s lawyer will also go into everything relevant to the victim’s damages such as medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering, permanent injuries, limitations, and loss of enjoyment of life.
If you are the plaintiff or defendant who must testify at a deposition, you should do so in the presence of your attorney. A personal injury case can be won, lost or irreparably harmed on the strength of a single deposition. Choose an experienced and qualified personal injury attorney who can protect your rights during a deposition.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Veritext for their insight into court reporting and depositions.