If you are involved in a car accident that results in a lawsuit, you may need to give deposition testimony during the “discovery” phase of the case. This phase of the lawsuit starts soon after the initial lawsuit documents are filed, when the parties begin to gather information. Keep in mind that car accident settlement discussions will be ongoing, but the parties also have to focus on building their respective cases.
A big part of discovery is the deposition, which is an out-of-court question-and-answer session during which you will give testimony under oath. Depositions give the parties (and sometimes witnesses) an opportunity to tell their side of the car accident story. While depositions are held out of court, testimony given during a deposition may be introduced at trial should any discrepancies arise between what you said at your deposition and your testimony during the trial.
Let's take a closer look at how depositions work in a car accident case, and the kinds of questions you can expect to hear.
Deposition Procedure Basics
The rules for depositions vary from state to state, but in general, if you have to appear for a deposition, you will be given advance notice of the time and place. The deposition will be held in a convenient location, usually in the county where the witness resides or where the lawsuit is pending, often at a lawyer's offices. Depositions may last for an hour or more, depending on who the deponent is and the complexity of the case.
The people typically present at a car accident deposition include:
- the person being deposed (the deponent)
- the parties to the lawsuit (typically the drivers involved in the accident and their attorneys), and
- a court reporter, who records and provides a transcript of the deposition testimony, and is often qualified to administer the oath.
Every deponent is usually asked general background questions and a series of questions about the accident. The kinds of questions that follow depend on the deponent’s connection to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit), the defendant (the person being sued) and witnesses will also likely be asked about the how the accident occurred. This helps to establish liability or who was at fault for the accident.
If you are the plaintiff, you will then be asked questions about the injuries you sustained, the medical treatment you received and any other damages you claim to have suffered as a result of the accident.
Now that you have some of the basics, let's look at some specific kinds of questions that might come up at a car accident deposition.
Sample Background Questions:
- Name, date and place of birth and address.
- Marital or relationship status.
- Educational history.
- Employment history.
Sample Liability Questions:
- Time, date, day of week and place of the accident.
- Weather conditions and traffic condition at the time of the accident.
- Presence of any traffic control devices, such as traffic lights, stop signs, other signs, lane markings, etc.
- Exactly what each driver did and when. For example: when you first saw the other car and where it was; the speed of both vehicles; where on the roadway the cars collided; what parts of the cars collided; where the cars came to rest.
- Whether you spoke to the other driver after the car accident and, if so, what was said.
- What happened to your body inside the vehicle when the collision occurred?
- What happened to your car after it was hit?
- What physical damage did each car have? Was your car repaired? At what cost?
- Were there any witnesses to the accident?
- Did you drink any alcohol or take any prescription or non-prescription drugs during the 24 hours before the accident?
Sample Damages Questions for Plaintiff:
- Injuries you claimed were caused by or aggravated by the accident.
- When did you first get medical care?
- Doctors and health care providers you have seen for treatment of your injuries.
- If there were any gaps in your medical care (periods of several weeks or more when you did not get any treatment), why did you not get treatment?
- How much have your medical bills been so far?
- Have you missed any time from work as a result of this accident? How much time? What amount of lost income are you claiming?
- How have your car accident injuries affected your day-to-day activities?
- Loss of consortium questions: How has your injury affected your marriage? Has there been a loss or reduction of sex, loss of enjoyment of other activities together, etc.
After the deposition is completed, you will receive a copy of your deposition transcript for review. You can correct any errors at that time and will then sign the transcript to attest to its accuracy.
Learn more about car accident lawsuits.