If you are a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, you will likely be asked to answer written discovery and give a deposition. Your lawyer will typically help you answer the written discovery, and will prepare you for your deposition, but you will be the one testifying and answering the questions posed to you by the defendant’s attorney. This can be a frightening or uncomfortable idea, but depositions are a routine and important part of the process of civil litigation. Each party is entitled to take the deposition of any other party.
You may be thinking, I was the one who was hurt or lost a loved one, though no fault of my own! Why do I have to sit here and answer these personal and painful questions? Shouldn’t the defendant be the one who has to answer for happened? That is a natural thought, and it is understandable that you would be hesitant to relive the memories of a car wreck or bad experience at a hospital, and even more so when you are describing those experiences to a total stranger with others in the room. However, your deposition is important to the case for a number of reasons, and is one of your opportunities as a plaintiff to have your voice heard.
One of the reasons that depositions are important is because your memory and description of what happened to lead to your lawsuit are evidence in the case. You would not want the defendant driver, doctor, or insurance company to be the only one to describe the situation because it is likely that your recollection will differ from theirs. Your testimony will be weighed against the testimony of the defendants by the court or a jury in rulings on your case. Giving your deposition testimony under oath makes it a part of the evidentiary record in the case and can be used to support the claims you have brought and to refute the defenses that have been raised.
Another reason that depositions are important is that it is a chance for the defendant, his attorney, and insurance company to meet you and see you through the eyes that a jury would see you. It is a chance for you to introduce yourself and talk about who you are as a person, family member, and member of the community. They will see how you present yourself and how you speak, and determine your credibility. This is important because, if your case goes to trial, the jury will assess some of those same things in determining your verdict, and so the deposition is a time to put your best foot forward and show that your case is one that is worth value.
Perhaps the most important reason that depositions are important to your case is that this is your opportunity to discuss how an accident, bad medical outcome, or unfair treatment by a company has affected your life. The defendants, their lawyers, and their insurance companies do not know you and do not know how the defendant’s negligent actions have caused you to suffer. Defendants can read your medical records and other documents for a description of the injuries you sustained, the surgeries and doctor’s appointments you have had, and how long you have been off work, but they will not know that you can no longer sit in a boat to fish, grip a bowling ball or do needlepoint, read books without getting a headache, or go for a hike. They won’t know that your spouse now has to do all of the cooking and cleaning, that you get irritable with your children for no reason, or that you can no longer visit relatives because their home is not handicapped accessible. The deposition is your opportunity to fully share the damages you have incurred in your case, in your own words.
Depositions can seem overwhelming and intrusive, but if you keep in mind that they are an essential part of the litigation process, and remember that your testimony serves to help you win and establish value in your case, it can help ease the stress of the situation. Your lawyer will be there with you for the deposition, and will prepare with you ahead of time so you can better understand the process and know what to expect.