Deposition: What Is It and What Happens at It?
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence and are being deposed, are having the at-fault party deposed, or both, you may be experiencing considerable stress. After all, depositions are completely alien to most people outside the legal profession, and often, there is a lot riding on this important discovery tool. A better understanding of what depositions are all about can help you calm your nerves and proceed with a greater purpose in your personal injury or wrongful death case.
One of the most important steps you can take if someone else’s negligence causes you to be injured is reaching out for the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney.
What Is a Deposition?
Depositions amount to sworn testimony that is taken outside of the courtroom, and they afford both sides the opportunity to officially question one another – while everything is recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. While depositions are taken for many reasons, they are primarily used for the following:
- To seek and preserve testimonial discovery
- To seek admissions in support of the case
- To test legal theories, hypotheses, and suppositions related to the case
- To help support or disprove the establishment of facts
- To help determine witness credibility
Depositions allow personal injury attorneys to proceed with the information necessary to build stronger cases.
Limitations to the Line of Questioning
The attorney conducting the deposition will ask specific questions of the person being deposed (the deponent), but there are limitations involved. The basics include the following:
- The attorney conducting the deposition can ask any relevant questions that do not touch on privileged information, such as anything that is protected by the attorney-client or doctor-patient privilege.
- While the deponent – usually through their attorney – can object to any line of questioning or to any request for evidence, there is no judge present to rule on the matter, which means the deponent’s objections will only be noted.
- Except under very limited circumstances, the deponent is required to answer the deposition questions asked of them.
Depositions are Generally a Legal Requirement
Generally, anyone who is believed to know something – or who may know something – about the case at hand can be deposed. If the person in question refuses, they can be subpoenaed, which means that a court order requiring them to be deposed at a specific time and place can be issued and implemented.
What to Expect
Depositions are typically conducted at the office of the attorney conducting them – or at another more conveniently located spot. The participants generally include the deponent and their attorney, the deposing party and their attorney, and the court reporter. The deposing party’s attorney will generally begin by explaining the deposition process and then lead with broad, overarching questions that segue into more specific questions about the current case.
If you – as the person who was injured by the other party’s negligence – are being deposed, you can expect your deposition to focus on specific categories of inquiry.
The other side will want to flesh out your background by asking questions about all the following:
- Your name, date of birth, and address
- Your level of education and work history
- Any past involvement you’ve had with lawsuits
- Any criminal history you may have
You will likely be questioned regarding any prior injuries you’ve suffered or accidents you’ve been involved in. The idea is to determine whether the injuries you claim to have sustained in the accident at issue may have been preexisting – or may have been exacerbated by the accident rather than caused by it.
Your Medical Treatment
At your deposition, you’ll likely be questioned extensively about the medical treatment you’ve received in relation to the accident at hand. This can include all the following:
- Doctor’s visits
- Medical treatments, tests, and procedures
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Follow-up care
- Any ongoing health care required
The deposing attorney may introduce your medical records as evidence during the deposition, which makes having a thorough understanding of your treatment history to date important.
The Accident Itself
The attorney deposing you will almost certainly want you to go into considerable detail about how the injury-causing accident happened. This can include introducing evidence and questioning you about it. Any proof that you shared fault for the accident in question – such as if you were distracted, speeding, or engaging in any other dangerous practice behind the wheel in a car accident claim – can damage your case.
It’s important to note, however, that in Georgia, even if you do bear some of the responsibility for the accident that leaves you injured, it doesn’t negate your right to compensation for the percentage of your losses that were caused by the other party’s negligence.
Current Limitations Faced
The attorney deposing you will want you to describe any current limitations you face as a result of the accident at issue. It’s important to consider your full range of limitations, including those with physical, financial, and emotional ramifications.
The attorney deposing you is attempting to set a baseline that will guide your claim moving forward. Anything you say during your deposition can go a long way toward either bolstering your claim or undermining it. Skilled attorneys with extensive experience deposing vulnerable accident victims are adept at putting deponents at ease and proceeding to coax more information out of them than they realize they are sharing. You can count on any additional or poorly considered information that you do share to be carefully twisted to the other side’s advantage. While you cannot win your case via a deposition, you can seriously damage it, which makes being well prepared critical.
Preparing for Deposition
You’re being deposed, which means that you need to answer questions about the accident that caused you to be injured under oath. As such, being scrupulously honest is imperative. This does not, however, mean that you need to say every thought that pops into your head. Your trusted personal injury attorney will help to ensure that you are well prepared to confidently handle your deposition by going through all the following basics with you:
- Listen carefully to the question posed to you and truthfully answer that exact question as succinctly as possible. Never answer questions that aren’t asked, and always think carefully before you speak.
- Remember that your deposition is not the right time to share your take on the matter – save your side of the story for your court date.
- If you don’t understand the question asked of you or if you get the sense that it’s meant to trip you up, ask for clarification.
- Remember that if you need to take a break to speak with your attorney privately, it’s your right to do so, and you should exercise this right.
An Experienced Georgia Personal Injury Attorney Is Standing by to Help
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, the practiced Georgia personal injury attorneys at Spaulding Injury Law recognize that you’re facing a difficult path forward and are well-prepared and well-positioned to help ensure that you achieve an advantageous outcome that supports your rights and best interests. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 770-744-0890 to schedule your free case evaluation today.