A deposition is a vital part of what is known as the discovery process. Discovery is a formal investigation to learn more about the facts of a case. All named parties involved in a civil lawsuit have the right to conduct discovery.
Part of the investigation process is interviewing witnesses and officially obtaining their testimony. One way that is done is through a procedure called a deposition. You may have heard of depositions in both civil and criminal cases. But just how does the deposition process work in a civil lawsuit?
A deposition can be a critical turning point in a personal injury case. And, on the other side, it can completely undercut the success of a case if mishandled. For that reason, it’s essential to have a lawyer who knows what they’re doing in a deposition.
The personal injury attorneys of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC in Charleston, WV have a combined 150 years of experience in civil law. We’ve handled hundreds of depositions in civil lawsuits for our clients. If you have questions about a personal injury case in which you were involved, please reach out to our office to schedule a no-cost case evaluation.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is when sworn testimony is taken outside of the courtroom (often in an attorney’s office) before a trial. In a deposition, witnesses are asked a series of questions about the facts related to a case. This provides an opportunity for both sides—the plaintiff’s side and the defendant’s side—to have a face-to-face meeting and ask questions of the opposing side.
Depositions are a common part of the discovery process for personal injury claims and criminal cases. In a civil lawsuit, the deposition process works as a way to allow lawyers to obtain a witness’ testimony and prepare for litigation. The lawyer will sit down with the witness in an official setting, ask questions, and record the answers to those questions. The information obtained through the deposition process is used to help understand the facts of the case in a more comprehensive way. This information will then be used to build a case.
Who Is Involved in a Deposition?
There are a few different parties involved in the deposition process. Because most depositions take place in a law office (rather than a courtroom), a judge and jury will not be present to hear witness’ statements. Instead, a court reporter and sometimes a videographer will attend the deposition to record the event.
The following parties are typically involved in the deposition process in a civil lawsuit:
If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you can expect to attend a deposition and answer questions. Other witnesses usually include the defendant (or defendants) and their legal counsel, and any other parties whose testimony is relevant to the case, such as an eyewitness of the accident.
Both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys will take part in the deposition. If you are the deponent (the witness being interviewed), you should always have your lawyer present. Your legal representative will help prepare you for the deposition in advance, guiding you through the questions you will likely be asked.
By law, a court reporter must be present at a deposition. Because witnesses are providing their testimonies under oath, a court-appointed reporter will be in attendance to make an official record of the statements.
A video recording may be part of the deposition process in a civil lawsuit. This is often the case if the witness will not be able to attend the court trial at a later date, or for other various reasons. A cameraperson and equipment operator are permitted to take part in the deposition if a video recording needs to be taken.
What Questions Will Be Asked in a Deposition?
The questions asked during the deposition process generally cover a wider range of topics than those more targeted questions that will be asked in court. Depending on the type of case, questions can vary broadly. But there are a few categories of questions which are typical of the deposition process. We will look at those categories below.
A deposition can take anywhere from less than an hour to several days to complete. This is a serious legal undertaking, and all questions must be considered carefully before answering. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on how to best answer questions. They’ll also let you know if there are any questions you shouldn’t answer, such as those asking for private or unrelated information.
The deposition process in a civil lawsuit will usually cover:
Introductory and Preparation Questions
These questions clarify deposition rules and get the deponent in a mindset to begin giving answers. This could be a simple inquiry, like “Are you aware that you are under oath?” Other questions will generally focus on deposition procedures, if the witness has ever taken part in a deposition in the past, preparations the witness made prior to the deposition, and whether they are taking any medications or experiencing other factors that could affect their mental state.
A good number of questions will seek to gather the witness’ personal details, such as name (including any nicknames, maiden names, or aliases), age, address, time spent living at current address, marital status, work, education, and legal history (including any past arrests or involvement in civil lawsuits).
These questions focus specifically on the details of the civil lawsuit in question. Questions about the incident’s time and location of occurrence and the actions of involved parties can be expected. As this is the most critical part of the deposition process, these questions will usually take the longest, and may be the most intense period of the deposition. It is these questions that are most important for you to prepare for and practice with your attorney.
Learn More About How the Deposition Process Works in a Civil Lawsuit
Injured accident victims shouldn’t need to know every detail of how the deposition process works in a civil lawsuit. That’s the job of an attorney who devotes their education and career to helping those harmed by the negligent actions of others.
If your civil case is handled by the law firm of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, you know that every detail will be handled with the greatest amount of care and competence.
You can trust the attentive support of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC to guide you through every step of your civil lawsuit, including the deposition process. Call our Charleston office for help with your personal legal matter in West Virginia.