Auto Accidents Tips: What Is a Deposition?

Whether you are a party in an auto accident claim or just a witness, you should know what exactly to expect from your deposition in court. Below are a few important tips

What kind of a trial is one involving a car accident?

Any accidents attorney will tell you this is considered a civil suit. While the rules governing lawsuits vary from state to state, civil actions generally follow the same format. There will be three distinct stages involved:

–          1. Law suit commencement procedures. Generally, the Plaintiff begins a lawsuit by filing a “petition” or “complaint” in court. The Defendant will answer the lawsuit by also filing documents with the court.

–          2. Discovery. This is also known the lengthiest phase of a lawsuit based on auto accidents. The purpose of discovery is to allow both sides to exchange information and documentation about their respective claims and defenses. What will it consist of?  First of all, it will be based on the exchange of written documentation, from medical records, medical bills to witness statements, police reports, and photographs of the accident scene. Also as part of the discovery are interrogatories, written questions sent from one party to another.

–          3. The Deposition.  This is another legal method to obtain information relevant to a car accident case. In a deposition,  a party’s legal representative will ask questions of another person who has information that is pertinent to something having to do with the car accident.

Who can be involved in depositions?

A wide group of people involved in an accident may be involved- from the cars’ drivers, to passengers in those cars, various witnesses, medical experts who provided treatments, police officers who worked on a case. There really is no limit to the types of persons who can be deposed as part of a car accident lawsuit. Typically, the only requirement is that the deponent possesses information related to the lawsuit.

Other tips about depositions

Generally, a deposition can be conducted anywhere, but most court rules require that it should be held at a location reasonably close to where the witness resides. Typically, this will occur in the office of one of the attorneys involved in the lawsuit.

A handful o people will attend a deposition. This restricted group of people includes the attorney who is requesting the deposition, the witness and their attorney, other legal reps in the lawsuit and a court appointed reporter. The latter is a very important part in the entire process. This is because testimony is usually done under oath and it needs to be officially recorded.

Giving testimony under oath means that if the witness is later found to have given knowingly false testimony, they can be subject to criminal penalties.

What kind of questions will be asked?

Once the deposition process starts, the witness will be asked basic questions about their connection to the lawsuit, following specific questions about the incident itself. Generally, the investigating attorney will want to know what the witness observed as the car accident occurred. If the witness is a medical expert, the questions will be related to the prognosis for recovery from the injuries. Sometimes the parties may wish to depose the investigating law enforcement officer, who can provide more detail about the officer’s observations while at the accident scene.

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