Depositions serve two main purposes in personal injury cases. First, they allow the parties to learn about the facts of the case. Second, they let the parties develop a factual record that can be used to cross-examine adverse witnesses at trial. Below are some of the common questions we receive regarding depositions in personal injury cases.
Q: What is a deposition?
A: This is a method of gathering information by obtaining testimony under oath from parties, fact witnesses and expert witnesses in a personal injury case. It is essentially a question and answer period, where an attorney asks a witness a variety of questions relating to the lawsuit. The witness is under oath, thus their testimony has the same force and effect as if it were in court. The deposition testimony is recorded by a court reporter and printed in a booklet called a transcript. The testimony can later be used for a variety of purposes related to the case, including at trial.
Q: Where will my deposition be held?
A: Depositions are typically held at a location agreed upon by the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants in a lawsuit. Generally, the deposition of a party is is conducted at their lawyer's office. Depositions of expert witness often take place at the expert's office. Some depositions can even take place at the courthouse.
Q: How do I prepare for my deposition?
A: Your attorney will help you prepare for your deposition. They will explain the process and what you can expect. Your lawyer will review the facts of the case with you, in addition to any relevant documents and materials, to ensure that you are prepared to give testimony.
Q: What if I don’t know the answer to a question?
A: It is not unusual for people to want to answer every question at a deposition. However, you're under oath, and no one wants you to guess or speculate about something you don't know. Thus, if you don't know the answer to a question asked at a deposition, you can indicate that you don't know. The most important thing is to answer the questions truthfully. Also, keep in mind that your attorney will be present during your deposition. They will object as necessary to questions that are improper.
Q: Are depositions videotaped?
A: Sometimes. In New Jersey, parties may videotape depositions if proper advance notice is provided. Thus, while the majority of depositions in New Jersey personal injury cases are not videotaped, videotaping is permitted if properly noticed.
Q: What kind of questions are asked in a deposition?
A: The information covered in a deposition will vary based on who is being deposed and the type of personal injury case at issue. However, most depositions will begin with questions about the person's educational background, work history and current employment. The following are some of the common types of questions asked at depositions:
- Name and address
- Highest level of education
- Employment history
- Current employment
- For plaintiffs: Previous injuries and treatment details
- For plaintiffs: Specific details about your accident, injury and treatment
- For plaintiffs: How your injury impacts your day-to-day life
- For fact witnesses: Specific details of what they witnessed regarding the accident/injury
- For fact witnesses: Information about the site of the accident, contributing factors, and any preventative measures they were aware of
- For expert witnesses: Specific information about their background, credentials and qualifications as an expert in their field
- For expert witnesses and treating medical providers: Opinions on the injury, treatment, prognosis and causation
If you are the victim of a personal injury, it’s important that you discuss your case in depth with an attorney before you are deposed. A lawyer can explain the process and prepare you to give testimony that will impact your case.