When a personal injury case is in court, it’s essential to gather evidence. One part of gathering evidence is a deposition. This is court-ordered testimony that seeks to question the witness and collect answers by asking questions. As the claimant, you may be required to provide a deposition.
Before giving any deposition, it’s essential to prepare sufficiently. Consulting your personal injury attorney at Baumgartner Law Firm is the best way to prepare a great testimony and avoid giving the defendants weapons against you.
The following guide helps you prepare and give a deposition in Texas during a personal injury lawsuit such as a car accident injury claim.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a legal statement given under oath. It is used to collect evidence and is part of the discovery process. The person giving the deposition is called a deponent.
The person giving the deposition is called a deponent. Usually, depositions don’t have to happen in court. They happen outside the courtroom with the deponent (you), the other party (defendant), attorneys, and a court reporter.
Generally, all parties can ask you questions during the deposition. The defendant’s attorney will ask you particular questions, which are then transcribed into writing by the court reporter and recorded by an approved videographer if necessary.
What to Avoid in a Deposition
Always tell the truth. That is the number one rule of testifying under oath. Depositions are not an opportunity to tell your story. It is only to answer specific questions asked by the defense counsel. Avoid the temptation to try to “make your case”. Just answer the question asked and do not volunteer anything more.
Why Are Depositions Necessary?
Depositions are essential for several reasons. First, they help both parties gain information. They also act as an accountability tool since the statement is recorded in writing and often in video. As the witness, you need to have your facts intact because changing testimony in court may cause credibility issues.
When a key witness disappears, falls ill, or passes away during trial, depositions ensure a reliable statement for the courts. Lastly, depositions help you and other witnesses recall statements, especially if court proceedings take months or years to resolve.
Who Asks Questions in a Personal Injury Deposition?
Usually, an attorney from the opposing counsel sends a notice of deposition to the deponent. The notice includes the date and time for the deposition. The attorney that “notices” the deponent is the noticing attorney and asks the questions first.
At the deposition, you’ll first be sworn in by the court reporter. The noticing attorney summarizes the purpose of the deposition and explains why you should use verbal responses instead of non-verbal ones. Sometimes, the case may involve more than two parties, which means several attorneys may be present in the room, each representing their clients.
In some cases, the question may be written and read to you by a court reporter. It’s not a common occurrence, but it can happen. The court reporter takes down all verbatim in the deposition. Usually, all parties receive a transcript of the deposition for use in their cases.
Where Do Depositions Occur?
A deposition usually happens in the office of the personal injury attorney representing you. However, all parties can identify other locations for the deposition.
Recently, remote depositions have been occurring via Zoom due to the Covid virus. In that case, you may actually be located at home or at work and give a video deposition via the Internet.
What to Know About Giving a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case in Texas?
Here is a video going over our tips for depostions.
Tips For Giving Your Deposition
Tell the truth:
This is the most crucial part of any deposition. Tell the truth because if the opposing counsel notices any inconsistency in your statement, they will use it against you or use it to question your credibility as a witness.
You will be nervous and tempted to jump at questions before the opposing lawyer is done. However, do your best to be patient, listen to the complete question, digest it, and respond. When you respond, only answer what is asked and nothing more.
Do not let the opposing attorney put words in your mouth:
The opposing counsel will often use leading questions during the deposition. However, the attorney may use these questions to trap you. If you do not agree with the premise of the leading question, do not agree with the testimony. Your attorney may advise you not to respond to a question or plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.
Watch out for continuous yes answers:
One trick lawyers use is to use several truthful leading questions and force a “yes” from you. As they proceed, they ask more damaging questions, hoping that you’ll unconsciously respond with a yes. Be on the lookout for such tricks.
If you’re not sure of something, do not say yes. Say, “I do not know,” or “I do not remember.” If you do not remember specific times or dates when something happened, say that you don’t know or don’t now recall. These are perfectly acceptable responses.
Qualify your answers where possible:
If you don’t remember all details, try qualifying your answer. For example, you could say. “That’s all I remember for today, but I would refer to my records.”
Be careful around time and distances:
Providing specific measurements and times can be challenging. In car accident depositions distance and time can matter. Avoid estimating if unsure.
Ask for clarity if you do not understand the question:
If you do not understand a question, ask the attorney to repeat it before answering. Do not respond to a question you do not understand.
Answer the questions and avoid stories:
Depositions are not an opportunity for you to tell stories. Tell your stories to the attorney so that you can focus on the questions in the deposition. Never volunteer extra information to the defense attorney because they can use it against you.
Extend common courtesy to the defense attorney. They may be your adversary, but being rude is no excuse.
Maintaining a professional look for the deposition is essential.
A deposition may last several hours. Take breaks, breathe, use the bathroom, or have lunch as needed.
Take your time:
Listen, understand the question, and respond as effectively as possible. There is no need to rush through your deposition. Always stay silent until the defense attorney asks a question.
Prepare for Your Deposition with a Personal Injury Attorney
Preparing for your deposition with a personal injury lawyer is the best way to answer all questions and avoid confusion correctly.
The Baumgartner Law Firm is always ready to assist in your personal injury trial. Call our Houston law firm today at (281) 587-1111 for a no-obligation consultation, or click here for a consultation request.