When you know your personal injury case is moving toward a trial, you will start to hear the word deposition thrown around. Without previous experience with a lawsuit, you may only have a vague idea of what a deposition is. It eventually becomes clear that you will have to answer questions on the record. How is this different than testifying? A deposition can feel like testifying in a trial; however, they actually have different purposes.
If you have been told that you will need to give a deposition in a personal injury case, contact a Chicago personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can prepare you for the experiences and offer advice each step of the way.
Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation.
A deposition is essentially an interview where you answer questions from your lawyer as well as the opposing side’s attorney. You only answer questions, you are not allowed to ask them. During a deposition, attorneys can make all manner of inquiries, even when they seem unrelated to the case. Your attorney can object to the other side’s questions, but you will still be required to answer. There is no judge to decide if the question is too broad or unrelated to the case. A deposition happens during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, not during the trial. It will not take place in a courtroom. Instead, it often takes place at one of the attorney’s offices.
The purpose of a deposition is two-fold. First, both sides are trying to learn as much as they can about your relationship to the defendant, what happened before, during, and after the accident, and about your injuries. The deposition is an opportunity to gain information – good and bad – to prepare for trial.
Second, a deposition preserves your testimony, which is why it is on the record and is either transcribed by a court reporter or video recorded. Your testimony is preserved so whatever you say when you do testify in court can be compared to what you previously said during the deposition. This can be used to prove you have always kept your story straight or to demonstrate you have altered your story at some point.
While a deposition happens at an attorney’s office during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, your testimony at trial will occur in a courtroom during a formal trial. You are still required to answer questions; however, the process will be quite different. By the time you testify at trial, you will know all of your attorney’s questions and how to best answer them. You will also be prepared for the opposing counsel’s questions, even if you do not know the exact wording or order. This is different than at a deposition when most questions will be asked for the first time and may come as a surprise. At the deposition, your answers may have been news to your attorney and the opposing party. However, the trial should not bring any new or shocking information to light.
At trial, your attorney can object to inappropriate questions and the judge can immediately decide whether or not you have to answer. The inquiries that can be made at trial are much narrower than during a deposition since a deposition is a fact-finding mission while testifying at trial is to support a specific issue within the case.
No one wants to walk into a deposition blind and be caught off guard with unexpected questions, particularly when your answers could greatly affect the outcome of your personal injury case. Instead, you are better off working with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can thoroughly prepare you for a deposition.
Your lawyer will go over expected questions, how to best answer them, how to avoid placing any responsibility for the accident on yourself, and how to handle stressful moments. Your lawyer knows the other side will ask questions that are uncomfortable and antagonistic. However, you will have to answer. You must be ready to take difficult questions in stride, carefully provide an honest answer, and move on to the next question. A deposition is much more likely to go better if you are prepared, than if you show up with no idea what may happen.
If you were hurt in an accident and have been unable to receive a settlement from an insurer, it is time to look into your right to file a lawsuit those responsible for your injuries. The process of bringing a personal injury lawsuit can be difficult and involve months of prep work, including depositions before a trial can even take place. This journey is worth it to gain the compensation you need to move forward.