What is a Deposition in a Lawsuit?
According to the New York Bar Association, oral depositions are typically the most powerful discovery tool available to litigators. If you are filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you may be surprised to learn that you have to attend a deposition and wonder what will happen over the course of it. A New York personal injury attorney can advise on whether a deposition will be necessary in your case and will ensure you are prepared if one is necessary. In the meantime, below are some basics of the deposition process, so you know what to expect.
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What is a Deposition?
In its simplest terms, a deposition is a question-and-answer period that takes place as part of the discovery process in a civil lawsuit. The discovery process allows each party to collect information about the case, and any potential evidence they can use to strengthen their arguments. The process of discovery usually takes place at the beginning of the lawsuit, meaning after it is filed with the court but before a trial or settlement has taken place.
During a deposition, the parties involved in the lawsuit will appear at a specific time and place to provide sworn testimony. Typically, a court reporter attends the deposition to record the deposition and submit it to the court. Lawyers will ask witnesses questions, and the attorney for the witness is also usually present. Sometimes, the testimony given during a deposition is admissible in court.
Serving Subpoenas to Compel Witnesses
Generally speaking, any person that has knowledge of the facts related to a particular civil case can be deposed. However, most people do not attend a deposition voluntarily. Depositions are a long process and they always have the potential to become very stressful. Depositions are only necessary, after all, because there is a legal dispute. Still, due to the fact that some people can provide very important testimony, lawyers will often use subpoenas to compel witnesses to attend the deposition.
When serving a subpoena on a potential deponent, a lawyer will hire a process server. The process server will serve the deponent with the subpoena, and they are then legally required to attend the deposition. It is critical to work with a New York personal injury lawyer if you have to subpoena someone to attend a deposition.
A New York personal injury lawyer will be very familiar with the process and will know the strict guidelines these subpoenas must follow. Individuals that do not wish to attend a deposition may try to modify or quash a subpoena and if they are successful, that could hurt your case. A lawyer will ensure the subpoena is drafted properly so it cannot be challenged.
Why are Depositions Taken During a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Your lawyer may recommend a deposition during your personal injury lawsuit for many reasons. These include:
- To learn important facts about the case
- To learn more about the other party’s case, and the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments
- To determine the effectiveness of a certain plaintiff or witness should they testify at trial
- To determine when and how the injury or accident happened
The above are just a few reasons a lawyer may want to take a deposition. Any time your lawyer needs certain information, they may suggest a deposition so they can obtain it.
How Do Depositions Work?
Attorneys for either the plaintiff or the defendant can request a deposition at any time, but they must provide reasonable notice to all parties involved. Depositions are held in many different locations but most of the time, they are held at the law firm of the requesting attorney, or at the court recorder’s office. Usually, the attorney that requested the deposition is responsible for paying the court reporter’s fees.
Once the deposition begins, one lawyer will typically start asking questions, and the attorney for the other side can then ask their own questions during a follow up. Attorneys can also object to questions asked, or the subject matter during questioning. However, unlike what occurs during a trial, a judge is not present so, there is no immediate ruling made on objections. Although the record will note the objection, the questioning will also proceed. It is only in limited situations that attorneys can instruct their clients to not answer a question.
Tips for a Successful Deposition
Facing a deposition is stressful and intimidating. However, you can ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible by remembering the following tips:
- Prepare: If you receive a subpoena to attend a deposition and do not have legal representation, now is the time to speak to a New York personal injury lawyer. A lawyer will advise you of what will occur during the deposition, the topics that will be covered, and the questions you may be asked. A lawyer will also attend the deposition with you to ensure your rights are upheld.
- Always remain honest: Remember that you are under oath as you answer questions and so, it is critical that you remain honest at all times. If you lie while under oath, you will face the same penalties for perjury as if you were dishonest in court.
- Remember the transcript: The documentation of the questions asked and the answers given during a deposition is very important. Court reporters cannot document inaudible responses, or non-verbal answers, such as a nod of the head. Speak clearly and take as much time as you need to answer a question so that your response is complete and accurate.
- Only answer the question asked: It is natural to want to give as much information as possible but during a deposition, it is critical that you answer only the question that was asked. This will prevent you from volunteering information the opposing attorney had not yet mentioned.
The above are just a few of the most important tips when you need to attend a deposition a New York personal injury lawyer will provide the information you need so your deposition is a success.
Get Legal Help Today
Personal injury lawsuits are complex, and depositions are just one component of them. If you are involved in a lawsuit, our New York personal injury lawyers at Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C. can help you prepare for your deposition, and all other aspects of your case. Call us today at 1-877-ASK4SAM or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.