What is a Deposition and How Will It Help my Personal Injury Case?

If you have filed a personal injury lawsuit, it is very likely that you will have to take part in a deposition at some point during the litigation process. The purpose of a deposition is to allow the opposing side (including opposing counsel and the insurance company) to find out more about your version of the case and your injuries, in order to assist them with their settlement determinations. Florida depositions are governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

Personal injury litigation can be a long and confusing process. A skilled New Port Richey personal injury lawyer will be able to help protect your rights at your deposition, streamline the litigation process for you, and can help you maximize the value of your personal injury case.

Written Discovery

Before taking part in depositions, the parties to a personal injury lawsuit will typically engage in a period of written discovery. During this time, each party sends the other a set of written questions, called interrogatories, which must be answered. These interrogatories typically have to do with how the accident happened and the nature, extent, and amount of the injuries and damages sustained. These interrogatories must be answered under oath, and each party must sign an affirmation, indicating that his or her answers are true and accurate to the best of that party’s information, knowledge, and belief.

Oral Discovery

Although depositions may be taken upon written questions, they are typically part of the oral discovery phase of litigation. Oral depositions usually take place in a law office conference room, rather than in a courtroom. There is no judge or jury presiding over a deposition.

In most personal injury cases, there are two types of depositions:

Discovery Depositions – During a discovery deposition, one attorney takes the deposition of the opposing party in the case – or of a fact or expert witness – in order to determine what that party or witness knows factually about the case and to get a general idea of how that party or witness might be expected to testify at trial. A discovery deposition is also a good opportunity to determine whether a particular party or witness will offer favorable or damaging testimony at trial.

De Bene Esse Depositions – These depositions are usually taken of expert medical providers and follow the format of trial testimony. A de bene esse deposition is typically videotaped and played for the jury at trial.

During any deposition, the following will usually take place:

A court reporter will be present for the deposition and will take down everything that is said during the deposition. This is done for purposes of creating a written transcript to be used for settlement purposes or for if and when the parties decide to take the case to trial. If the case proceeds to trial, deposition testimony may also be used for impeachment purposes to attack a witness’ credibility or veracity.

The court reporter will swear in the witness.

The attorney for the opposing party will do most of the questioning. For example, if the plaintiff is being deposed, the defendant’s attorney will normally ask most of the deposition questions. Deposition questions usually have to do with how the accident happened, the injuries sustained, medical treatment, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, permanency, damages, and impacts on the plaintiff’s lifestyle and abilities that directly resulted from the accident.

The person being deposed (i.e. the deponent) is required to answer all the questions asked to the best of his or her knowledge, information, and belief. If the deponent does not remember the answer to a question asked or does not know the answer, then he or she may state that on the record.

Following direct examination, the deponent’s own attorney may then ask follow-up questions, or cross-examination questions, in order to clarify any points for the record.

How Effective Deposition Testimony Helps a Plaintiff’s Case

Deposition testimony can be very helpful to a plaintiff’s personal injury case because it allows the opposing attorney, as well as the insurance company, to know and understand more about the plaintiff’s version of the case and the injuries and damages sustained – including the plaintiff’s limitations. Moreover, clear, effective, and accurate deposition testimony paints the injured plaintiff in a positive light, greatly increasing the potential settlement value of the case. A plaintiff who testifies well at a deposition will also be a good witness at trial.

Maximizing the Effectiveness of a Plaintiff’s Deposition Testimony

In order to maximize the effectiveness of your deposition testimony as a personal injury plaintiff, you should keep the following in mind:

Only answer the question asked. If the other attorney wants additional information from you, it is up to him or her to ask you the appropriate follow-up questions. It is not necessary for you to volunteer information at a discovery deposition.

It is important to remember that a deposition is not the chance for you to tell your story or to make guesses. Rather, the purpose of a deposition is for opposing counsel to find out what you know factually about your case, in as few words as possible. If your case ultimately goes to trial, the trial will serve as the ultimate opportunity for you to tell your story to the jury.s

If you do not know the answer to a question or do not remember the answer, it is perfectly fine to say so in response to opposing counsel’s deposition questions. Obviously, you do not want to respond to every deposition question in this manner.

If opposing counsel’s deposition question is unclear, or if you do not understand it completely, it is important that you ask for clarification on the record. If you answer the question on the record, the opposing attorney will assume that you fully understood the question and what was being asked of you.

Contact a New Port Richey Personal Injury Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case

Personal injury litigation is a complex process, and experienced legal representation can be invaluable to maximizing the value of your case. If you have sustained injuries and damages as a result of someone else’s negligence, our experienced New Port Richey personal injury attorneys may be able to help you obtain the monetary compensation you need and deserve under Florida law.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275