What to Expect at a Deposition for a Car Accident
If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for your damages by filing a personal injury action. One of the tools that is often used in a personal injury lawsuit to gather more information about the accident is a deposition. These are held during the discovery phase of litigation and can help provide evidence regarding liability and the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. If you have been scheduled to appear at a deposition, it’s essential to have an idea of what to expect.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a question-and-answer session that takes place under oath and out of court. They are used to gather information from lay witnesses, expert witnesses, and parties in the case to learn the details about what happened in connection with the accident — and how the plaintiff’s injuries impact their life and livelihood. Both the plaintiff and defendant can conduct depositions to secure testimony that will be useful to gather more information and eliminate any surprises at trial. In some cases, the information procured at a deposition can be used as leverage during settlement negotiations in order to avoid trial entirely.
The length of time a deposition will last can depend on many different factors, including the complexity of the case, the length of the deponent’s answers, and how many exhibits are introduced during questioning. In most car accident cases, a deposition will last just a few hours at most. Importantly, there are specific local rules in some jurisdictions that limit the number of depositions that can be taken and how many hours they may last.
What to Expect at a Deposition
A deposition typically occurs at the office of an attorney or court reporter. The attorneys for both sides and a court reporter who creates the transcript for the deposition will all be in the room — but there is no judge present. Before the deposition begins, the person providing the testimony (the “deponent”) is sworn in and informed of the rules. Then, questioning from the party that requested the deposition will begin.
At a car accident deposition, a plaintiff can expect to be asked a wide variety of questions, including the following:
- Personal background information — A plaintiff may be asked about their background, educational history, medical history, living situation, and employment history.
- Accident details — During a deposition, a plaintiff will be questioned about the facts and circumstances surrounding the car accident. For instance, they may be asked about traffic conditions, the weather, what they were doing at the time the accident happened, and what happened inside the car.
- Injury details — A plaintiff will typically be asked what injuries were caused by the accident, what treatment was received for them, how many times they attended physical therapy, and whether their medical bills were paid.
- Physical limitations — A plaintiff can expect to be asked how their accident-related injuries impacted their daily life and livelihood.
The defendant in a car accident case will be asked similar questions, including what they were doing at the time the accident occurred and how the accident happened. While their client is being questioned, an attorney may raise objections as to the form of the question, privilege, or relevance. This is vital to protect their clients’ rights and preserve the deposition record. Each party may also be questioned by their own attorney on the record.
What to Expect After a Deposition
It’s not only important to be aware of what to expect at a deposition — but you should know what to expect after a deposition has been conducted. Following a deposition, the court reporter will process the transcript and send copies to the parties. The attorneys for each side have 30 days to review the transcript and identify any mistakes. If changes are made to the transcript, both the original answers and the corrected answers may be used in court by the opposing party.
The parties will usually have a settlement discussion at some point after a deposition. If a settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to trial. However, depositions can only be used in limited circumstances at trial. For example, any part or all of the transcripts can be used against a party at trial for the purpose of contradicting or impeaching their testimony. A deposition may also be used at trial when the party who offered the deposition cannot procure the attendance of the witness by subpoena, the witness who provided the testimony is deceased, or the witness resides more than 20 miles from the place of trial.
Contact an Experienced Washington Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident, it’s crucial to have a personal injury lawyer by your side who can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit — and advise you regarding what to expect at a deposition. With locations in Burien and Bellevue, Herron Law Office, PLLC is dedicated to providing knowledgeable representation and skillful counsel to car accident victims in Washington. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation to discuss your case by calling (425) 600-2580.