What Happens at a Deposition?
When you’ve been injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you and your attorney might decide you have to go to trial to get fair compensation. One of the things that occurs during litigation is “discovery.” The discovery phase of a lawsuit is when both sides dig for additional information about the case. One of the tools they use is the deposition.
At a deposition, an attorney will ask questions about the case, and the witness is required to answer those questions. The purpose of a deposition is to learn what parties, witnesses, and expert witnesses know and will be testifying about at trial.
While you may believe you can handle a deposition on your own, you may not be prepared for the questions and tactics that the other side’s attorneys might use during a deposition.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a question-and-answer interview that is testimony under oath. The deposition may be used as evidence during the lawsuit. During a deposition, the opposing counsel will ask the deposed person (the deponent) several questions, and a court reporter will record the answers to create a written transcript of the deposition for parties to review and use.
A deposition may be used against the deponent at the trial, on hearing of a motion, or during an interlocutory proceeding. Additionally, the deposition may be used to bring someone’s character into question or get their testimony impeached. It can also lead to more serious consequences because lying at trial or during a deposition is considered perjury, a felony in Florida.
What Happens During a Deposition?
During a deposition for a personal injury case, many attorneys will follow the same format of questions starting with background information about the deponent, such as:
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Employment history
- Education background
- Criminal history
- Medical history
Additionally, the opposing attorney will ask questions about the incident itself, like if you remember what time of day the incident occurred and everything about before, during, and after the accident. An attorney will also ask questions about any injuries sustained during an incident, medical treatments received or scheduled, and how the injuries have impacted the deponent’s health, professional life, and personal life. For example, if someone claims that they used to play basketball every day but, because of the accident, they can no longer stand for long periods, the opposing attorney will ask questions about hobbies and how long the deponent can stand or walk before they need to rest.
During the deposition, it is important to understand that you are under oath, and generally, all questions should be answered. Your attorney can’t stop you from answering questions in the deposition. Instead, the attorney should object to the question on the record, and the court will rule on the admissibility of the question later.
However, a deposition may be suspended under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.280(c). In addition, a motion for a protective order may be filed if an attorney believes the information sought would be irreparable if revealed by the deponent. So, if a line of questioning is irreparably harmful to the deponent, an experienced attorney will suspend the deposition rather than instruct their client not to answer.
Preparing for a Deposition
Your attorney will prepare you before a deposition. They’ll help you practice answering questions with words rather than a nod because all answers must be verbal so the court reporter can record them.
They’ll advise you to listen to the full question before answering and to pause before you give your answer. People naturally finish other people’s sentences in their heads and begin to answer before the question is fully asked. This makes it difficult for the court reporter to record the full conversation. You also do not want to answer questions not being asked, which could give the other party more information than they are seeking.
You also always want to be truthful. A deposition is under oath and will begin with the court reporter swearing in the deponent by asking them if they agree to be truthful with their testimony. Failing to be truthful during a deposition can harm your case and result in criminal penalties.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Giving a deposition may seem intimidating, but an experienced Florida personal injury attorney will thoroughly prepare you before a deposition. The skilled attorneys of The Bruner Law Firm know how to prepare you and can inform you of tactics that opposing counsel may use during the deposition to influence your answers. Call us today at (850) 243-2222 or contact us online for a free consultation.