So your lawyer has investigated your potential claim (car accident, slip and fall, medical malpractice), has tried to settle your claim with the insurance company without success, and determined your claim has enough merit to be filed in a court of law. You have gone through the initial discovery process – written discovery. Now it is time to get more information about your case through party (plaintiff and defendant) depositions.
A deposition is a process where the witness is asked various questions by the defense attorney and a court reporter is present to make a recording of the deposition. Typically, the Plaintiff gives a deposition first. Your attorney will most likely spend a good chunk of time, maybe even on more that one occasion, speaking with you about what to expect during your deposition. Most of the time, my clients tell me the deposition wasn't nearly as bad as they expected it to be. You can expect the defense attorney to ask you questions about the event that caused your injuries. Of course, the attorney will ask you a lot of questions about your injuries themselves – how they limit you, where it hurts and how often, what doctors you have seen, and whether you had any prior injuries to that part of your body. You are allowed to take breaks as you need them and even speak with your attorney during these breaks. Usually, the defense attorney will want to size you up as a witness in addition to learning about your injuries. The attorney wants to know if the jury will believe you, if the jury will like you. To get that information, the defense attorney will ask you where you grew up, if you are married, if you have any children.
Sometimes, my clients find some of these questions to be too personal and even out of line. Remember, the discovery process is set up to permit the attorneys to gather information. Your attorney will ask similar questions of the defendant. During your deposition, your lawyer will be present with you. If there are questions that are asked of you that are inappropriate, your lawyer will protect you. If this happens, your lawyer will object for the record so that later, your attorney can ask the judge to bar that particular evidence. For purposes of the deposition, however, don't be surprised if your attorney tells you to go ahead and answer the question. Your attorney will do that in an effort to try to prevent you from having to sit for another deposition. If the question is completely inappropriate, your attorney will tell you not to answer.
Not long after your deposition, your attorney will take the defendant's deposition. Whether a Missouri or Illinois case, all parties have a right to attend all depositions. This means that you can attend the defendant's deposition if you choose too. Likewise, the defendant can attend your deposition if he chooses to. Don't worry, the defendant himself does not get to ask you questions, during the defendant's deposition, your attorney will ask a number of questions that are designed to help prove your case. I always ask my client if there are particular questions he/she wants an answer to and I do my best to ask those questions too. Sometimes, the plaintiff wants the defendant to be "beat up" during the deposition. Remember, your attorney can't make the defendant apologize to you and likewise, sometimes it doesn't help your case to have your attorney go after the party that hurt you. Trust your attorney and her experience in this regard.
Next time, we will discuss fact witness depositions.