What it is: If you have filed a personal injury lawsuit, at some point the defense will likely take your deposition. A deposition is simply a question and answer session where the deponent (person being deposed) is placed under oath to tell the truth.
Who will be there: It usually takes place at your attorney’s office and all attorneys involved in the case will be present. All parties to the case, meaning all plaintiffs and defendants, are entitled to be present during each deposition. From a practical standpoint, however, usually only those who are being deposed that day are present. A court reporter will also be present.
Why a court reporter is necessary: The court reporter will be taking down everything the deponent and the attorneys say. Because the court reporter takes everything down stenographically, it will later be transcribed into booklet form and will read like a play. The transcript will look something like this:
Q: What color was the traffic light as you were approaching it?
A: The light was red.
Q: How fast were you going when you first saw the traffic light?
A: About 30 miles an hour.
What you will be asked: Every case is different and your attorney will prepare you before the deposition regarding areas you will likely be questioned about. The defense attorney is permitted to ask you about anything; no matter how un-related to the case it may be, so long as it pertains to your own personal knowledge or observations. There are very few reasons your own attorney can object to a question and if they do object they may still instruct you to answer the question.
Important tips: Really listen to the question being asked and respond only to that. If the question calls for a “yes” or “no” response, that is the answer, do not expand your answer. The attorney taking the deposition will ask all the necessary follow-up questions. The more responsive you are to what is actually being asked, the quicker the deposition will be over.
If you don’t know an answer, “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” are perfectly acceptable answers, so long as they are the truth. Do not make up an answer in an effort to be helpful.
Do not get upset if you can’t remember dates or times exactly. Most depositions take place years after the accident so memories get hazy. If you can couch your answer in a time frame such as, “within the last 6 months” or “it was in the summer” that is acceptable.
Finally, try not to be too nervous. Depositions are incredibly important and your testimony does have the same force and effect as if you were in a courtroom because of your oath to tell the truth. However, you are there to testify about what you remember, how you feel and what you observed. Basically, you are there to talk about yourself! So, listen to your attorney’s preparation instructions and pay close attention to the questions. You’ll be fine!