Being injured in a collision is traumatic enough without the added stress of legal proceedings. You may already be dealing with life-altering injuries, medical treatments, or even loss. This time is quite stressful, but you shouldn’t disregard the legal side of a car accident. If you have the chance to acquire compensation for your injuries, take it.
One of the first steps after filing a claim is a deposition. Car accident depositions are a standard part of the process and take place regardless of if the suit is being brought to court or settled outside. In other words, depositions occur before a case is settled or brought to a courtroom. After talking to an attorney and filing a claim, all involved parties will arrange a deposition.
What should you expect during a car accident deposition? What do you need to know, and how do you prepare? Well, let’s start with the basics first; what is a deposition?
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a testimony given under oath before a settlement or trial occurs. An attorney asks questions, and the court reporter records the answers. It is conducted for clarity of information between all parties.
A deposition for an automobile accident generally consists of three areas of questioning. First, the attorney will ask you about your personal information and your involvement in the case - if you are a witness, plaintiff, etc. Next, they will want to know about the accident itself – how it occurred, what you saw, etc. And finally, if you are the plaintiff, they will want to know what injuries you received, damages incurred, medical bills, and ability to work.
When asked about yourself at the start, you can expect questions about everything from contact information and employment status to medical history and previous legal dealings such as previous lawsuits or a criminal record.
The questions regarding the accident that occurred will be quite in-depth. They will ask you about the time and date of the accident and the weather conditions. They'll also want to know what each driver did during the accident and how it all happened. Be prepared to give detailed answers, including any damages. Please make sure not to guess at any of the information as it will be compared to what you say later. If you do not know an answer, say you do not know.
The last section of questioning for the deposition will be regarding your losses due to the car crash. The attorney will ask you what medical treatment you have sought and received, when you received it in relation to the accident, who treated you, if you are still undergoing long-term care. You may also be asked questions regarding how the injuries affect your lifestyle, and what you can or cannot do anymore.
The point of the deposition is to collect all information regarding the accident and compensation requested by the plaintiff. If you are the plaintiff, the opposing attorney is trying to gauge what you know about the case and will look for anything in your story that does not match to assuage any right to compensation. As such, it is vital you tell the truth. If you are in the right, the evidence will show it.
How to Prepare for a Car Accident Deposition
Giving a deposition can seem a daunting task, but there are ways to prepare. If you remember to relax, take your time, and plan ahead of time, giving a deposition can be a helpful and positive experience. Here is what you should do to prepare:
- Talk to your attorney. Go over the facts of the case, review your answers, and practice.
- Sort out any questions and concerns you have with your attorney before the deposition.
- Take time to organize your thoughts so that you can give only the required information. Do not volunteer information unnecessarily.
- Practice making a good impression. The opposing attorney will not just be assessing the case but also you.
- Keep your answers consistent; you may be asked about the same thing more than once.
- State specifically if you cannot remember the answer to a given question. Make it known if you never knew the answer or cannot recollect.
- Read through all documents in detail before the deposition, and be sure to do so during the testimony if you are given a form you are unfamiliar with. Do not provide any answers until you have read and understood the information presented.
- Do not bring notes. It may seem like a good idea to jot down some points for the deposition – do not.
- Practice silence. A tactic that they may use to get you to keep talking is to let the tension build between questions. Do not keep talking. You need to know how to hold your tongue unless specifically addressed.
- Expect objections. Your attorney may object to questions you are asked. If this happens, you will most likely still be asked to answer the question, but do not do so until explicitly told.
- Be ready to be questioned about anything. It is not uncommon for the opposing attorney to ask you questions that are irrelevant to the case and often quite personal. Unless told otherwise, answer plainly and truthfully.
- Lastly, remember that you have the right to correct mistakes. If you make an error or remember vital information at a different point in the deposing, you can address the issue to have the error changed on the record. An excellent way to do this would be to talk to your attorney during a break. As well, you can look over the transcript of your deposition to ensure validity.
What Should You Keep in Mind When Giving Your Deposition?
There are a number of points to note and keep in mind when it comes to giving a deposition. Following these will help you stay relaxed and focused during a testimony. It is essential to be mindful when dealing in a legal setting.
- The number one most important thing to keep in mind when giving a deposition is to tell the truth. Always tell the truth. That means if you do not know the answer, do not guess. If you did not hear the question, ask for clarification. Be honest and straightforward. Frequently, the opposing attorney already knows the answers to the questions they are asking.
- Talk to your attorney before the deposition about any thoughts or concerns you have regarding it. They will counsel you on how to approach each subject. It’s important that your attorney is aware of any situations that may arise before they do.
- They may videotape some depositions, so be aware of your body language. If you are on film, act accordingly. Be attentive and professional. Try not to look defensive, suspicious, or bored.
- You can lose your case in a deposition. The opposing attorney will likely amicably ask questions, but they are there to do a job. Their job goes against your interests, so remember to be mindful of how they approach each subject.
- The last important thing to remember when giving a deposition is that you can take breaks. If you need a moment, that is fine. This is not an interrogation; it is an interview.
What Does This Mean for You Overall?
As the plaintiff in a car accident deposition, your job is to answer fully and honestly. Take time to get prepared and learn about what you can expect at your deposition, as well as what you should avoid. If you are in the right, you should have nothing to worry about. Do keep in mind that a deposition is as much about you as it is the accident's facts.
Talk to your attorney, address your rights, and practice your answers. A deposition is not an interrogation, but it can cause you to lose your case, so do not take it lightly.
To summarize, an accident deposition is the first chance the opposing attorney will have to meet you and access what you know about the case. The purpose of a deposition for you is to establish what you are suing for and what has occurred. The opposing attorney’s goal is to try to find holes in your story or discrepancies between you and witnesses.
You should take several steps to prepare for a deposition, such as addressing all concerns with your attorney prior to the testimony, reviewing information, and learning your rights. A deposition does not need to be a scary and stressful event, but you should treat it professionally, as one would treat any other legal proceeding.
Above all, remember to be concise and honest in your answers. Tell the truth, but do not offer more than you are asked. Car accident depositions are a daily practice for attorneys. Take your time to prepare and practice. But remember: at the end of the day, this is the first step you must assert your right to compensation for your injuries.
Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, don’t go it alone. An experienced car accident lawyer can advocate for your best interest and pursue fair compensation for your damages. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, you can count on us to work tirelessly for your quality of life. With our 12-hour callback guarantee and long track record of success, we’ve helped people just like you move forward after sustaining an injury that was caused by another’s negligence. Contact us now at 201-801-3795