A deposition is used during the discovery process by parties to a lawsuit to obtain witness testimony. The witness provides out-of-court testimony under oath. The attorney who scheduled the deposition asks questions related to the personal injury case, and the opposing attorney has a chance to cross-examine.
Both parties to the lawsuit may use depositions to gather information and evidence. For example, the parties may depose each other, expert witnesses, eyewitnesses, and other individuals who have information relevant to the injury claim.
You Are Required to Appear at Your Deposition
Generally, an attorney sends a subpoena to the witness to appear at a deposition. A subpoena is a court order to appear and provide testimony. Failing to appear at your deposition could result in a contempt order and sanctions by the court.
What Happens at a Deposition?
The attorney who scheduled the deposition and their client will attend the deposition. Generally, opposing counsel and their client may also attend the hearing.
A court reporter places you under oath. The court reporter records and transcribes the questions and answers during the deposition. The official transcript of a deposition could be used during trial to impeach a witness who tries to change their testimony when an attorney cross-examines the witness.
The attorney’s deposition questions depend on who is being deposed and the type of personal injury case. In many personal injury depositions, the plaintiff’s attorney questions the defendant to gather evidence to prove that their negligence caused their client’s injuries and damages.
When the parties to the lawsuit are being deposed, questions asked generally include:
- What do you recall about the incident or accident?
- Specific questions related to the person’s actions before and after the accident
- Personal questions about the person’s work history, education, family, home, etc.
- Questions about the injured victim’s health, physical activity, quality of life, and medical condition before and after the accident
- How the accident or injury has changed the victim’s daily life and activities
- Whether the person knows of any eyewitnesses
- The damages sustained by the plaintiff due to the accident and injury
- The specific injuries sustained by the plaintiff and the medical treatment received
Other witnesses testify about facts related to the case. For example, a medical expert may explain how the plaintiff’s injuries prevent them from working or caring for their children. Likewise, accident reconstructionists may provide expert explanations of how a car accident occurred.
How Can You Prepare for a Deposition?
You have no idea what the attorney may ask during the deposition.
However, a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer will help you prepare for the deposition by:
- Explaining what types of questions the other attorney may ask
- Giving you tips for answering questions (e.g., never guess and keep your answers short and simple)
- Conducting mock depositions to help you feel more comfortable with the process
- Explaining the dress code and etiquette for a deposition
Your attorney cannot tell you how to answer deposition questions during the deposition. However, you can discuss the facts of the case and specifics about how the accident impacted your life before the actual deposition.
Some tips to keep in mind when providing testimony at a deposition include:
- Answer each question truthfully. A deposition is sworn testimony. Therefore, you could face perjury charges for false testimony.
- Do not guess or estimate. If you do not know the answer to a question, state that you don’t know.
- Avoid using non-verbal movements to answer questions or saying “uh-huh.” The court reporter cannot guess what you mean by noises and movements.
- Do not offer information not requested. Instead, answer the question asked in a concise, straightforward manner.
- If you do not understand a question, ask the attorney to rephrase the question.
- Remain calm. The attorney may attempt to anger, rattle, or upset you to obtain more information. Avoid the urge to become defensive.
- If the question involves a document or other evidence, ask to see the item before answering any questions about it.
Your lawyers will give you specific instructions regarding the deposition during preparation. If you are confused or unclear about anything, ask your attorney before the deposition day.
Laws Governing Depositions in Texas Personal Injury Cases
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 30 governs depositions in federal cases. Rule 31 of the Federal Rules governs depositions by written questions in federal court.
Most personal injury cases in Fort Worth are filed in state court. Depositions in Texas court cases are governed by the Texas Rules of Evidence, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and any local court rules for depositions.
These laws set the rules for serving a notice of deposition, who may attend the deposition, the length of a deposition, and other related matters. For example, §199.5(c) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure sets a six-hour time limit for an attorney to question someone during a deposition. Breaks during the deposition do not count against the limitation.
Contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Working with a personal injury lawyer can prepare you for depositions and other phases of your personal injury case. Contact a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer today for a free case evaluation to help you get the money you deserve after an injury or accident.