Last Update: 01/11/16
In any lawsuit, but particularly cases involving personal injury damage claims, gathering as much information as possible is critical for both the plaintiff and the defendant. Each side will want to research and investigate not only their side of the story but the opposing party as well. The plaintiff’s attorney, for instance, will want to discover the defense’s position and arguments both factually and legally before sitting down at a settlement table or going into a courtroom for trial.
The gathering of all this information is done through a legal procedure called the “discovery process.” There are procedural rules that control how this works. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure (for state cases) and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (for federal lawsuits) provide the tools for this investigative process and set deadlines for it, as well.
One of these tools is called the “deposition.”
The Deposition as a Tool to Discover Facts and Evidence
Rule 1.310 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure (and Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) allows each side to formally question the plaintiff and the defendant and the other people who may have knowledge of facts that can lead to the “discovery” of admissible evidence. There is a court reporter present to transcribe everything that is said during the deposition’s questioning and answering. The court reporter administers the same oath to the person being deposed as the oath that is given on the witness stand.
In fact, deposition testimony carries the same level of respect as testimony given on the witness stand. Many times, for example, experts that are not available at trial time will have their testimony from their deposition read to the jury from a person reading their deposition transcript while setting on the witness stand.
The Injured Plaintiff’s Deposition
In a personal injury case, the defense lawyer will send a formal notice the injured plaintiff’s lawyer that complies with Rule 1.310 (or Federal Rule 30). At the time and date shown on that deposition notice (unless your lawyer changes it by agreement or court order), the injured party will appear to answer, under oath, questions that are being asked by the defense attorney. If there is more than one defendant, then each defense lawyer will be able to question you at this time.
Usually, your deposition will take place in a conference room at your lawyer’s office.
While each case is unique, as a general rule, injury plaintiffs can expect to hear the following deposition questions, among others:
- What is your full name and current address?
- Have you ever used or gone by any other names?
- What were your prior addresses for the past 10 years?
- Where have you worked for the past 10 years? What job did you have?
- What illnesses have you had in your life, beginning with childhood?
- What injuries have you suffered in your life, beginning with childhood?
- When have you been hospitalized? Where?
- Do you have a criminal record? What convictions?
- Have you ever sued anyone before? Where? Why? What was the result?
- Have you ever been sued before? Where? Why? What was the result?
- Have you ever filed an insurance claim before? Where? Why? What was the result?
- At the time of the accident, what were you doing? Where were you? Why were you there?
- Where there any witnesses to the accident?
- Where you obeying all the driving laws at the time of the accident?
- Did you suffer property damage in the accident? What was it?
- Did you suffer injuries in the accident? What were they?
- When did you first seek treatment for this injury? Who treated you? Where?
- Does this injury include any aggravation of an injury you already had at the time of the accident?
- Does this injury include any aggravation of any condition you already had at the time of the accident?
- How long were you treated? Are you still receiving treatment?
- Have you been unable to work because of your injury?
- Have any other your other daily activities been hampered because of your injury? What activities? How?
- Is there anything you can’t do any longer because of the injury?
Preparing for Your Deposition
Depositions can be very frightening and scary for people. They can be intimidating and nerve-racking. Don’t worry. Your lawyer will prepare you for your deposition.
Working together, you and your injury attorney will go over your individual circumstances and predict the areas of questioning that the defense will want to address. For example, if you have a permanent injury, then you can expect several questions on what has happened and how it is permanent, as well as questioning into how your life has been curtailed as a result.
The truth is important here, of course. Trusting your lawyer is important, too. He or she will be at your side to protect you from a bullying defense lawyer or from intrusive questioning.
Remember, however, that “discovery” tools allow for each side to delve into areas that will not be admissible as evidence in court, as long as these areas might arguably lead to some information that is admissible. For instance, the details of your fights with your ex-spouse might never be admissible as evidence in your injury case, but if that questioning leads to the fact that you suffered a broken collarbone from a prior accident, then that prior injury may be admissible evidence in your accident case.
One of the most important things you can do in advance of your deposition is to locate the names and addressed of all doctors you have seen for any injuries or any medical conditions within 10 years of the accident or injury. The worst thing to do or say during your deposition is that you haven’t had any injuries related to the body part for which you are now making a claim if that isn’t true. Remember, you are under oath in your depo.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in an accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.