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What should you know about depositions?

These days, most personal injury claims are settled out of court. However, some cases have a hard-fought issue or two that will drag the process closer to a courtroom than others.

If your personal injury case has some heavily disputed issues, you may find yourself being asked to give a deposition. It's important to understand exactly what this is, what the other side wants to see and how you need to respond.

What are depositions and what do they accomplish?

Depositions are part of a claim's discovery process. It's a basic tool that each side can use to learn more information or facts that can either help or hurt their case.

These are the basics that you need to understand about how depositions differ from other fact-finding tools an attorney might use:

  • It is live testimony. Unlike written requests for information (interrogatories), you aren't given a lot of time to consider your answers.
  • You will be under oath. Making a mistake of fact under oath isn't a crime but purposefully lying is -- it's called perjury.

A good deposition can help both sides understand a case better and can often result in a settlement. Once both sides have a clear understanding of a case's strengths and weaknesses, it's often easier to find a middle ground on which to negotiate.

What else is the other side trying to find out?

Depositions also serve a few other purposes that are less obvious but highly important to keep in mind:

  • The other side wants to see how well you handle yourself under pressure. Are you easily rattled? Do you lose your temper? If your case does go all the way to court, the other side's attorney wants to find out how to make you less appealing to the jury on an emotional level.
  • The deposition locks you into a description of the accident that is very difficult to change. Since it is testimony given under oath, it can be used to challenge your credibility if something comes to light that makes your statements seem implausible.

Depositions are often thought of as "miniature trials" without a jury around to make any final decisions. Prepare ahead of time with your attorney and behave exactly as you would if it were an actual trial.

Source: FindLaw, "What is a Deposition?," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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