The courts are always looking for ways to look for the truth in every lawsuit. For this purpose in a personal injury case, it is vital to collect all the information and data regarding the event that incited the lawsuit. If you have filed a personal injury case against a negligent company or individual, the court during the discovery phase may require one or more witnesses to give depositions so that a clearer picture of the incident might be obtained. Let us look at the process and discuss the answer to the question, ‘Is a deposition required?’
What is a Deposition?
A deposition involves the attorneys asking sets of questions from the opposing parties. It is a question and answers session where you will have to answer under an oath of honesty as the plaintiff and a witness to the incident. Attorneys use the deposition to prepare for trial, and it is essential in determining the result of the case. A court reporter is also present in the session and takes down all the answers in writing to make it official. The testimony can be used during the trial. A deposition can take place during discovery or before or during the trial.
The process usually occurs in a lawyer’s office. It can seem informal, but it is imperative as anything you say can be used against you. It is essential to be fully prepared for your deposition in a personal injury case in San Francisco, California.
Legally, is a Deposition Required?
Any person who might have relevant information regarding the lawsuit can be called to give a deposition. If you show an unwillingness to show up to the time and place you are given, you are most likely to receive a subpoena. Once you get that, yes, you are legally bound to appear at the deposition place, or legal action can and most likely will be taken against you. The subpoenas are served through process servers and should follow strict guidelines and complete information. It includes the title of the action and the place and time at which the deponent is required to appear.
A subpoena also includes specific text commanding attendance. If you receive a subpoena, you have the right to ‘modify’ or ‘quash’ it, but you will have to file an application for that in court and present reasonable reasons for it. The reasons can include having to travel unreasonable distances for the process or being given an unreasonable time to respond to the commandment, etc. If there is not a convincing enough reason to quash a subpoena, you have, in legality, no other choice but to go and give a deposition.
What is a Personal Injury Deposition?
During a personal injury lawsuit’s discovery phase, deposition can be used as a tool to gather information before going into the trial, so the time of the court can be saved. A witness or deponent in a personal injury case usually gets asked questions, the answers to which reveal more about the incident. The provided information provides a clearer picture of who was at fault to ascertain the appropriate amount of settlement.
The plaintiff or witness or deponent is required to provide their testimony and answer the opposing counsel’s questions under the oath that all the information and answers you give are truthful and accurate to the best of their knowledge. Remember, if you are the plaintiff, the facts a deponent provides can make your case weaker as well as stronger. The details of the case are taken down in writing by court officials, and they can also ask questions from the deponent to determine why and how your injury occurred.
In the legal work-frame, there is another subtle purpose of demanding a deposition. That is, to discover how an individual will testify in the court during the trial and allows the attorneys to both the parties to design a strategy that pertains to it. The fact that the opposing counsel is actively looking for ways to weaken your case can be daunting, but all one has to do is to answer the question truthfully and provide all the details and information they remember about the incident.
Does Every Lawsuit Have a Deposition?
No. Deposition is not a prerequisite of any lawsuit or case at any stage. However, it is the legal right of the attorneys or parties to the case to conduct a deposition if they think it will serve the case. The right is given by the law to be able to get closer to the truth by enabling more information to be available. The attorneys use the deposition for fishing out information that the opposing party might be hiding. It is not necessary that a deposition proves to be helpful, but, nevertheless, it is a try worth making.
What Should You not Say in a Personal Injury Deposition?
If you are a first-time deponent, a deposition can be a little awkward for you, if not downright unnerving or even scary. You get asked all sorts of questions, both about your personal life and the personal injury incident. There is a person sitting in a corner typing all your answers really fast, and you are being pressured and drilled down to recall things you do not clearly remember. However, you should understand that it is all a part of the process, and you are just a deponent or witness to the case and not a lawyer or a culprit. So, you should stay relaxed and try to avoid the following things:
Showing up Unprepared
Showing up unprepared can cause a party’s case to suffer because of you. It is crucial to sit down with your attorney and prepare for all possible questions that you can get asked and the best answers you can give to those questions. An experienced, expert, and specialized personal injury attorney in San Francisco, California, knows the intricacies of deposition and can prepare you so that you swiftly ace it.
Lying or Being Dishonest
A weak point in your story does not mean you will lose your case. Not being truthful and getting caught can hurt your argument far worse than telling the truth about a weak point. The key is to prepare for possible questions about your weak areas before the deposition process and answer them in ways that do not make them more ineffective. Remember, you are under the obligation to tell the truth and that is what is in your best interest.
Falling for the Silent Treatment
Sometimes, the defendant’s attorney might use silence accompanied by a tilted head, a raised eyebrow, or a look of disbelief after you have answered a question to compel you to keep talking or tweak your answer. It is just a tactic to get an answer out of you that would benefit their argument. Remember not to feel uncomfortable with silence and not feel compelled to say something even if you do.
Giving Unnecessarily Long Answers
Wait for the question to get completed, and then take a pause to think about the answer you want to give. The delay allows you to carefully evaluate your response. It lets your attorney object to the question if they believe it is necessary. Keep your answers brief and to the point. You can hurt your case by giving away unnecessary information which can be used against you in the case or open up a separate line of tough questions. Listen to the questions carefully and ask for clarification if you do not understand or hear them properly.
Getting Upset or Angry
Getting upset and defensive during a deposition can make you give weak answers. Some attorneys try to make you uncomfortable or angry by asking irrelevant and personal questions. Still, you need to make sure you stay professional and straightforward.
Which Questions Cannot Be Asked in a Deposition?
Technically, an attorney can ask any question they want during a deposition. However, you do not have to answer all questions, and there are some questions that you can object to and leave for the judge to decide whether you are compelled to answer them. These are questions that you can truthfully answer but doing so will hurt your case, or you do not want to for whatever reason.
Sometimes, the opposing attorney throws irrelevant or personal questions at you or repeats relevant questions to ensure your answers are consistent every time. Some questions may even be directed towards you for the purpose of enraging or embarrassing you.
If the questions you object to fall into the following three categories in the eyes of the judge, their objection will most likely not get overruled.
If a question is asking you to provide any information that is privileged, secretive, or confidential, you can object to it. Examples of such information are confessions given to a priest, an exchange between a psychiatrist and their patient, and conversations taking place between a patient and a doctor.
In order to compel you to answer a question with private information, an attorney will have to prove it has a direct implication or bearing on the case. You can deny giving out private information, such as details about a person’s (including yourself) values, beliefs, religion, sexuality, or health.
Some questions do not have a bearing on the outcome of the case. If such improper or irrelevant questions are asked, you yourself can object to them, or your attorney will object on your behalf and stop you from answering. It is crucial to process the question in your mind before you go on to answer it. If it sounds irrelevant to the case, it is always a good idea to object to it. However, do keep in mind that a judge can overrule it, and not every question that can be used against you or is unsettling can be deemed irrelevant. For example, if the opposing counsel in a personal injury case asks you about your living conditions, and you feel uncomfortable answering it, the judge may overrule your objection as the answer may prove helpful for the attorney if they are trying to make a case for you forging the accident to overcome your weak financial situation.
The Final Word
Whether a deponent in a personal injury case is the plaintiff themself, an individual related to a party to the case, or a neutral third-party witness, they can benefit from hiring a reputable personal injury attorney in San Francisco, California. A good lawyer will prepare you for your deposition to obtain the best outcome. The process can seem daunting, especially if it is your first time, but strong preparation will help you keep calm and give favorable answers.
Remember, you can always file to modify or quash a subpoena if it contains an unreasonable demand. You cannot deny a deposition, but you can object to improper questions. Answer with complete honesty and provide all the details and information you are able to recall of the incident. The deposition process is designed with the motive of finding and getting to the truth and is in the best interest of the justice system. Is a deposition required and necessary in a personal injury case? No. But if it becomes a requirement, go through with it prepared and with good faith.
If you need expert legal help regarding a deposition contact the law office of Phoong Law.