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Why are Depositions Used in Auto Accident Cases?

By: Allan M. Siegel

Depositions are oral examinations where lawyers for both sides (the plaintiff and defendant) are present and a record is made by a court reporter. The main goal for a deposition is to create a written record of the testimony of a witness under oath.

After a car accident lawsuit is filed, a party to a case may take a deposition of anyone, whether or not that person is a party. An individual being deposed must be provided adequate notice before the deposition takes place.

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Depositions are taken before anyone authorized to administer an oath, but this usually means a court reporter. This court reporter will right down everything the person being deposed (the “deponent”) says. Sometimes depositions are videotaped, but usually depositions are only transcribed by written text because it is more economical. This dynamic is important to understand, because the court reporter cannot write down a deponent’s smirks, eye-rolling, angry expressions, or other communications that do not translate to the written page. If you are being deposed, make certain that you orally state everything that you want preserved for the record.

Depositions are used to preserve factual testimony, which can be critical to your auto accident case. Did a witness actually see you run a red light? Was the driver who hit you distracted by her children in the backseat? Did the truck driver fail to check his side mirrors to see if there was a bicyclist in the bike lane before merging over? These are the type of questions that a deposition can help answer and establish a record. Deposition answers can later be used at trial to impeach witnesses who change their story. It can also establish a factual record for a case and enable both parties to have a clearer picture of the respective merits and demerits of their cases. Sometimes, a party who has resisted settlement may change their tune after a particularly devastating deposition performance.

During a deposition, the lawyer for the other side will have an opportunity to ask a number of wide-open questions. In general, a deponent will have to answer all questions, unless the answer would invade a legally protected privilege, such as attorney-client privilege.

Depositions can be an extremely important part of an auto accident case. If you have a deposition scheduled in your case, make sure to talk to your lawyer in advance so you are adequately prepared and make the most of the time. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we understand the importance of a well-executed deposition and have found that some cases are won and lost during depositions. If you suffered from a catastrophic personal injury in Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, please contact us for a prompt, free consultation with an attorney.