If you have been injured in a car accident and file a lawsuit, you will likely need to participate in a deposition. Many people are intimidated by the term “deposition” and have a lot of anxiety prior to being deposed, mostly because they don’t know what to expect. But a good personal injury lawyer will help you fully prepare. Here’s a guide.
What is a deposition in a car accident lawsuit?
A deposition is an out-of-court legal proceeding where a person gives sworn testimony under oath in the presence of a court reporter and attorneys. Basically, it’s a formal question-and-answer session that is recorded and legally official. Some depositions are recorded on video and all of them are transcribed onto paper for reference. Depositions are usually done at a law office, but sometimes they’re done at a person’s home.
In a car accident lawsuit, plaintiff drivers, defendant drivers, passengers, eyewitnesses, first responders, and/or medical professionals may all be deposed as part of the discovery phase. The purpose of a deposition is to help both sides clarify the facts of the case and assess the relative strength of their arguments prior to mediation and/or trial.
How should I prepare for my car accident deposition?
In preparing for your car accident deposition, your lawyer should go over a list of possible questions you may be asked, and give you guidance on how best to respond. Before your deposition, review the questions and rehearse your responses, if you feel the need. You will be under oath, so always tell the truth and be consistent in relating your version of events. Your attorney should go over in detail which facts of your case you should emphasize, and which facts you should leave out unless asked directly about them. Thorough preparation is the best defense against deposition anxiety.
What if I say the wrong thing in a car accident lawsuit deposition?
It is hard to say “the wrong thing” in a car accident deposition unless you give a different story than the one you already gave your lawyer, or you allow anger and frustration to get the better of you. A good rule of thumb for any deposition is to only answer the question asked, and then stop talking. Answer the question fully, but say no more after that. Many people are “nervous talkers,” but it’s best to keep answers short, sweet, and to-the-point. Avoid tangents, accusations, or emotional reactions.
Another great tip for depositions is to wait five seconds before answering any question other than “what is your name?” This gives you time to fully understand the question being asked and think before you respond.
You want to come across as a level-headed, credible, and intelligent witness. Attorneys use depositions in part to judge whether or not your testimony will be compelling at trial. You want the other side’s lawyers to leave the deposition thinking ‘there’s no way I want that person taking the stand in front of a judge and jury — they’re a great witness. I’m going to advise my client to settle.’
Will my attorney be with me during my car accident deposition?
Yes, as will the attorney or attorneys for the other side. You will usually be interviewed by both. During the deposition, your lawyer or the other side’s lawyer may object to certain questions that are asked. If your lawyer tells you not to answer a question, don’t answer it. Otherwise, always answer the question. “I don’t know” is a perfectly appropriate response if you genuinely don’t know. And if you need to consult your lawyer during the deposition, you may generally assert attorney-client privilege and ask to speak with your own counsel in private.
What kinds of questions will I be asked during a car accident deposition?
The questions you will be asked during a car accident deposition generally fall into three categories: your personal background, the circumstances of the actual accident, and the damage and injury suffered because of it. Be ready to talk about:
- Yourself and your life
- How the accident occurred
- The circumstances leading up to the accident
- What you did immediately following the accident
- Any conversation or interaction you had with the other driver
- The injury, loss, and property damage you suffered because of the accident
- How the accident has impacted your life
How long will a car accident deposition take?
A car accident deposition may take anywhere from half-an-hour to several hours, depending on the complexity of the case. Your lawyer should be able to give you a more exact estimate of how long your deposition might last so that you can schedule accordingly. If you find yourself exasperated, overwhelmed, or tired during a deposition, you can always ask for a break. You may need a minute to collect yourself, steady your nerves, or consult your lawyer.
Will the other driver be there during my car accident deposition?
Possibly, but usually not. Car accidents are traumatic enough without the added legal strife. Oftentimes, the drivers harbor serious hostility toward one another. So whenever possible, attorneys step in to represent their client so that both parties are spared the extra discomfort and tension of being in the same room together. If for some reason the other driver will or must be present during your deposition, your lawyer will warn you in advance. But most of the time, it will just be you, a court reporter, and the lawyers for both sides.
Will I lose my lawsuit if I make a mistake during my deposition?
Probably not, assuming the facts are in your favor in the first place. An error or accidental misstatement here and there is not going to tank your entire case. The stakes are admittedly higher for a plaintiff in a car accident deposition, because the burden of proof falls on them to establish the defendant’s fault. But we’re all human. Some people understandably get flustered during depositions. If you realize you said something inconsistent, untrue, or mistaken, you can always clarify as you go, or acknowledge and correct it.
Having said that, it is always best to keep your answers brief and precise. If it’s possible to answer a question with a simple “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know,” you should. Don’t feel like you have to give additional information or speculate about anything. And if you don’t understand a question, or it is worded in a confusing way, never hesitate to ask for clarification.
Do I need a car accident lawyer near me?
Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident, or you’re being sued because you caused one, you will want to hire the very best personal injury or accident defense lawyer in your area. At Attorney 911, we have a proven track record of huge wins for both plaintiff victims and defendant drivers involved in car and truck accidents. We have decades of experience getting plaintiffs paid, and defendants protected. Call us today. We want to hear your story and see how we can help.
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Attorney911 Legal Emergency Lawyers™ legal services is a Texas-based personal injury and criminal defense law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, though we are proud to serve Texans from all over the state and represent clients in federal court. We handle a wide variety of legal issues — from car accidents to worker’s compensation to DUI/DWI offenses. Our staff is bilingual, friendly, and genuinely passionate about helping our clients, whether it’s a million-dollar case or a thousand-dollar case. We also understand that cost can be a prohibitive factor in hiring a lawyer, and are willing to work with you on structuring payment in a way that is fair and feasible. We do accept credit cards for our hourly fees, and take some cases on contingency, which means you don’t pay us unless and until you get paid yourself. We know that you have a choice in your legal representation, and we believe that what makes us stand out from the competition is our real emotional investment in our clients. We see you as a person — not a paycheck. And we will fight hard for you, because we truly care.