How to Prepare for a Deposition after an Accident
If you've been in an accident and have sustained serious injuries, filing a personal injury or car accident claim may require your personal testimony to ensure a successful case. Talking with lawyers can be an intimidating process, but it's important to know that your honest account of what happened is crucial for a claim and helps protect you.
Think of a deposition as something like being examined in court on a witness stand. Only, there is no courtroom, no judge and far fewer potential onlookers. During a deposition, you are presenting evidence by answering questions that are asked by an attorney or team of attorneys.
Whether or not your case is settled in court, your deposition testimony serves a legal purpose that can help to protect you, your finances and your future. Here is what to expect and how to prepare for a deposition.
What Happens Before the Deposition?
To make the deposition go smoothly, your attorney should thoroughly explain what to expect and help you feel confident going in. For example, if you experience an accident in Alabama, your law team and an accident attorney in Birmingham can practice questions with you and remind you about your medical records that may be brought up during the deposition. Attorneys asking you questions may get very granular, but accidentally giving incorrect/false information may be construed as lying under oath. Therefore, it's best practice to be prepared for any questions you may be asked.
There will be times when you simply do not remember the answer to the question being asked. If this is the case, you may respond with, “I do not recall.” Visiting with your attorney prior can help prepare you and your responses for these types of questions. You can also create detailed notes beforehand that you can bring with you to the deposition.
What Happens During a Deposition?
Depositions can be long, grueling and may take several days. Attorneys from both sides of a claim will meet with a witness to get a first-hand account of what happened during the accident, as well as the state of the witness before and after the accident. It requires knowing certain details, such as medical history, and requires honest answers, since each witness swears under oath to tell the truth. All answers are recorded by a court stenographer and deposition proceedings may be videotaped.
Both your law team and the opposing law team will be present during the deposition. Depending on your involvement with the case, you may choose to represent yourself, but you will always have the option to bring a lawyer with you when you are a witness in a deposition.
Depositions may last several hours. The best way to head into a deposition is by being prepared for typical questions that may be asked, to answer in calm and measured responses that are rational, and to answer honestly and to the best of your ability.
Avoid fatigue – and the probability of saying something inaccurate – during the deposition by getting adequate rest before and during the deposition. Feel free to take frequent breaks for water or to walk around during the deposition as you need them.
What Happens After the Deposition?
It may take several weeks after the deposition for the transcription process to be completed. After which time, your lawyer will receive a full copy of the deposition. If you notice any issues regarding misstated information or believe you have been misquoted, you should contact your attorney right away. The same holds true should you remember/realize you misstated something
Your deposition, as well as any other documentation that has been gathered, may be used to settle your case and can be used in court if the case goes to trial.
Follow these tips to ensure your deposition is as positive of an experience as possible
- Dress and act as if you were going to a job interview. You want to project a sense of professionalism to all attorneys involved with your case. Speaking clearly will also help ensure accuracy for the transcription.
- Pause before you answer. Take several seconds to think about your answer before you say it out loud. Do not be overly wordy or offer up more information than is directly asked of you. Simple and straightforward is best.
- Ask for clarification when needed. Do not answer a question that confuses you. Ask for further clarification so you are completely confident in your answer.
- Be consistent. The best way to be consistent is to be honest. Be aware that you may be asked several variations of the same question multiple times. If you give inconsistent answers, that inconsistency could impact your credibility.
- Admit when you are unsure. If you do not recall something or do not know the answer to something, state so plainly. Do not try to guess or offer up an estimation to give a concrete answer, which may be incorrect or jeopardize your success in the case.
If you are ever uneasy or unsure about something throughout all parts of the deposition process, speak with your lawyer. Your accident attorney's job is to guide you through all parts of the claim process and act as your advocate during any deposition.
This blog post was submitted by Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, attorneys in Birmingham, Alabama.