Depositions are a major component to most personal injury lawsuits. Depositions are out-of-court testimonies from parties who are associated with the events involved in the lawsuit. In most cases, depositions are part of the discovery process, where lawyers for both the defendant and the plaintiff seek to find out what really happened. Occasionally, depositions can be used as part of the court proceedings when a party is too ill to attend court or is prevented by something like jail or distance.
Things to know about depositions
1. People being questioned in a deposition answer under oath. Although depositions are held outside of the courtroom and are usually more casual, participants are required to take an oath to tell the truth.
2. A court-appointed stenographer administers the oath and takes the minutes. An unbiased court stenographer is present at a deposition to create the official court record of the proceedings and administer the oath to deponents (those being questioned.)
3. You are allowed to bring your attorney to a deposition. It is permissible (and recommended) that you have your attorney accompany you to a deposition.
4. Rules at a deposition are more relaxed. The rules as to who may ask what, what form they may ask a question and to whom they may ask it are relaxed in depositions. However, when/if the evidence talked about in a deposition is presented in court, the more stringent, formal rules will apply. (For instance, if a question doesn't pertain to the case being presented, the question won't be allowed to be asked in court.)
5. There is a strict limit to the amount of time a deponent may be questioned. In most states, a deposition is limited to one day of questioning per person. The deposition may last up to seven hours. In addition, both the plaintiff and the defendant's attorneys are allowed to schedule up to ten depositions each.
6. A person may be compelled to testify at a deposition. A person who is believed to have information crucial to the outcome of the lawsuit may be subpoenaed by the court and compelled to testify at a deposition.
7. Depositions may be held remotely. Although most depositions are held in person, they may be held via telephone or teleconference instead.
Depositions don't have to be scary things. However, knowing a little bit about what to expect and bringing your lawyer along to represent your interests can help a potentially stressful situation become less worrisome.
For more information about personal injury cases, contact an injury lawyer like James Lee Katz.