If you are given notice that you will be required to give a deposition about a car accident case, it is helpful to know ahead of time what to expect. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is the Goal?
A lawsuit following a car accident is one type of civil suit, as opposed to a criminal one, and these types of suits tend to follow a very specific format. Once the plaintiff (the person or organization filing the suit) has filed the necessary documents to start the suit in court, the defendant (the person or organization who is required to respond to the suit) must answer it with another set of filings.
The period that follows is called discovery and is a long section of the suit that consists of the collection and presentation of all kinds of information about the claims of the parties involved in the suit. This normally begins with documents like medical reports and bills, police reports, statements from witnesses and photographic evidence, then proceeds to more in-depth questions and statements for the parties involved. These may be written questions, called interrogatories, or they may be questions asked in person, where they are called depositions.
The Basics: Who and Where
All kinds of people may be asked to give depositions, not just the drivers and passengers in the cars that were involved in the accident. Any witnesses who were present and saw what happened, police officers who wrote the police report or conducted investigations, medical personnel who examined or treated any of the people involved in the accident, or any other person with information that is at all related to the car accident and the case may be summoned.
Most depositions do not last more than a few hours and state laws specify what kind of notice must be provided, so you don’t need to worry about being called away on short notice. Strictly speaking, a deposition can be conducted anywhere, although there are regulations in place to make sure witnesses are not forced to travel long distances. Most depositions are taken in law offices, but it is not uncommon for them to be held in conference rooms, courthouse offices or libraries, medical offices (especially when the witness is a doctor) or the witness’s home. A deposition is not a complicated affair and usually only involves a few people: the attorney or party that is asking the questions, the witness who is answering them, any other lawyers who have been asked to attend and a court reporter.
One important thing to remember is that the testimony you give during a deposition is under oath. Everything you say during the process is recorded by a court reporter, usually using a sound recording device. Mistakes do happen, but a witness who gives false testimony and knows it is committing perjury and risking both civil penalties and criminal charges.
Usual and Specific Questions
A deposition starts out with basic identifying information, including your name and the reason you are connected to the lawsuit. This may include questions about your qualifications or your presence at the accident. These questions establish some context for the recorded deposition. From there, the questioning attorney will move on to the information they are seeking, which may be anything from descriptions of the accident and its results to specifics of injuries and medical treatment.
If you have been asked to give a deposition, you are allowed to have your own attorney present. Whether you are concerned about some facet of the proceedings or simply have questions about the process of the deposition and what it means for you, contact us to speak with an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation in time to be prepared.