A deposition is a legal process which allows either party's attorney to ask either a party or another witness questions under oath.
The most common depositions are of the parties themselves. One party's lawyer wants to take the deposition of the other party. However, individuals who are not a party to the lawsuit may be subpoenaed to a deposition to answer questions under oath.
If the insurance company lawyer is taking the deposition of the injured party who has filed the lawsuit, the insurance company lawyer may ask a broad set of questions. There is, as a matter, no limit to the questions a defense lawyer may ask an injured party about his or her prior health. Of course, the defense lawyer will be asking whether the injured plaintiff has suffered a back injury before, whether they were involved in prior car wreck or anything else about the claimant's medical history which the defense may end up using against the plaintiff injured party.
For instance, if the claimant is seeking money for a back injury caused by car accident, the defense lawyer will be allowed to ask questions about prior back injuries and prior treatment for back injuries. The defense lawyer may also ask questions about prior car crash.
In short, almost everything is fair game for a defense lawyer to ask in a deposition. If the claimant is asking for lost income as a result of being unable to work for a period of time, the claimant's entire financial status is fair game. The defense lawyer may ask about prior income, sources of income, prior work history and anything else related to the person's ability to earn an income.
Who Goes to a Deposition and What Happens At One?
If the parties are represented by an attorney, that attorney will be present at the deposition. The deposition will be held in front of a court reporter or stenographer who will be taking down every word of every question and every answer.
In many cases, the deposition will also be videotaped.
Although a lawyer may object to certain questions during a deposition, the lawyer will almost never instruct a client not to answer a question.
It will be for a judge to rule at a later date on whether the jury should hear the question and answer which arose during a deposition.
It is the lawyer's duty to thoroughly prepare their client for the deposition. At Brent Adams and Associates we go over with our clients the likely questions the other attorney will be asking. We will caution against certain mistakes that many people make in their depositions. The claimant should be fully prepared for their deposition beforehand.
What Happens After a Deposition?
After the deposition is concluded the court reporter or stenographer will type every word of every question and every answer given throughout that deposition.
The deposition of a party may be read to the jury during the trial. Therefore, of course, a party should not testify to something during their deposition that they would not want a jury to know. However, all questions posed to a witness during a deposition must be answered fully and truthfully.
Depositions are therefore a great way to arrive at the truth before trial.
If a party testifies at trial on any matter that is inconsistent with the testimony given in a deposition, you can be sure that the opposing lawyer will make the jury aware of this prior inconsistent testimony.
For instance, a defense lawyer may ask the injured plaintiff something like this: "Well now Mr. Smith did you testify during your deposition while you were under oath in the presence of your lawyer that you were feeling much better after your last visit to the doctor?" If that testimony is inconsistent with what the witness testified in trial the lawyer might say: "And now you're saying that you continue to have significant problems after your last visit to the doctor. Which time were you telling the truth, when you responded to questions while you were under oath during your deposition or when you responded to questions of your lawyer during trial at which time you were also under oath?"
As you can see, this line of questioning could severely damage the credibility to the plaintiff and therefore hurt the plaintiff's case.
That is why you should prepare thoroughly for your deposition with the assistance of your lawyer. Be careful of depositions and be sure that you prepare during your deposition which is given under oath.