If you are in a car accident in Texas, you may need to attend a deposition as part of the legal process. But what happens during a deposition for a car accident? How can you prepare, and do you even need to attend one?
We tell you everything you need to know about a car accident deposition.
What Is a Car Accident Deposition?
A car accident deposition is a sworn statement taken under oath — much like testimony in a courtroom. During this process, your attorney and the lawyer representing the other party will ask you questions about your car accident to discover the facts.
A car accident deposition can be helpful to your attorney in many ways. Sometimes, a deposition may be introduced directly as evidence and played to a jury, especially if a witness cannot testify in court. Even if a deposition isn’t used as an exhibit, it can help your attorney determine the best strategy moving forward or provide leverage for settling your case.
While testifying in court and giving a deposition is similar — both involve giving sworn statements subject to the penalty of perjury (the criminal offense of giving a false statement) — it’s vital to know that a deposition is not a trial.
Not all car accidents will result in a deposition, either. A car accident deposition only happens during discovery. This is a pre-trial phase of a lawsuit, during which all parties gather evidence, which can include depositions.
Most personal injury claims settle outside of court, so you’ll unlikely need to attend a car accident deposition unless you and the other party can’t agree on a settlement during the initial negotiation phase.
But with a small percentage of personal injury claims going to trial — such as if the offer you’ve received isn’t enough to cover your long-term expenses — it’s worth knowing what to expect at a car accident deposition in case you’re called to one.
What to Expect at a Car Accident Deposition
A car accident deposition is typically held in an attorney’s office and is a more informal affair — at least compared to a court trial. But a deposition is still a formal interview, and you are under oath, so it’s natural to feel intimidated at the prospect of being questioned by multiple attorneys.
During a deposition, your attorney will be present, as will the other party (such as the driver you claim caused your accident) and their lawyer. A court reporter will also be present, who will record all testimony.
After you swear your oath and affirm your answers will be true and accurate, your attorney will ask you questions about your accident, such as the events leading up to it, the injuries you suffered, and how your injuries have impacted your life since the accident.
To prepare for your car accident deposition, it can be helpful to review any relevant documents and details, such as your crash report, any statements you’ve made to insurance companies, and your driving history, as you may be asked about these.
Some of the questions you may be asked during your car accident deposition are:
- Can you describe what happened leading up to the accident?
- What do you remember about the accident?
- What injuries did you sustain as a result of the accident?
- Have you sought medical treatment for your injuries?
- Have you needed time off from work because of your accident or injuries?
- Have you incurred any other expenses from the accident, such as property damage?
- Were there any witnesses who may have seen the accident or the events leading to it?
The exact questions you will be asked will depend on the specifics of your case. While there are usually common themes or similarities between car accidents, every accident is ultimately unique. Opposing counsel (the other party’s attorney) will also be able to ask you questions during cross-examination — also known simply as “cross”.
Tips for Giving Effective Testimony and Staying Calm during Cross
The goal of a car accident deposition is to get to the bottom of what happened so you can get justice and compensation for your injuries. Still, it’s only natural to feel nervous or anxious about testifying.
Staying calm is easier said than done, but following these tips can help you remain composed.
Tell the truth: During your car accident deposition, you will be under oath, so it goes without saying that you should be honest. Fabricating stories or even slightly exaggerating what happened is an act of perjury, and also affects your credibility, calling into question whether or not what else you’ve claimed is true. If you’re unsure about something when asked, say you don’t know or that you can’t recall — don’t guess, speculate, or make something up because you think it will sound better.
Be clear and direct: When answering questions, do so concisely. Don’t over-explain or go on a tangent — this will ensure a clear record and that your deposition is easy to understand. If your attorney needs more information or would like you to expand on your answer, they will ask follow-up questions.
Listen carefully and take your time: If you don’t understand a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification before answering. There’s also no need for you to rush through your testimony — tempting as it may be! You are not on the clock, and you’re under no pressure to answer quickly, so take the time to think things through if you need to.
Once your attorney has finished asking you questions, it’s the turn of the other party’s lawyer. Their goal is to challenge your testimony or get you to contradict yourself, which can involve trying to make you admit fault. In addition to listening carefully and being direct and honest, consider doing the following to get through this part of your car accident deposition.
Don’t get flustered: The opposing attorney may try to fluster you or make you uncomfortable to elicit the answer they want to reduce their client’s liability. Try to stay calm and composed, and remember to take your time — not respond in the heat of the moment.
Don’t argue: If opposing counsel riles you up, you may get defensive or even argue with them. Perceptions are everything, and arguing with an attorney will only harm your case, so be respectful and cooperative, even if you disagree with the lawyer’s question or the viewpoint they’re putting forward.
Your personal injury lawyer will also protect you during questioning. If the other party’s attorney asks a leading or compound (more than one) question, or if the information they’re asking for is irrelevant to your case, they will make an objection.
What to Expect after Your Deposition for a Car Accident
After your car accident deposition, both sides will receive the transcript from the court reporter. This will help determine the next step in your case. In most cases, settlement negotiations will restart, but proceeding to court is an option.
It’s always best to discuss your options with your attorney. Our car accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen are expert trial attorneys familiar with the deposition process. We also have significant experience negotiating fair settlements for our clients, so you don’t have to deal with the stress of going to court.
If you’re in an accident in Texas, our personal injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. Our compassionate yet fierce advocates will guide you through the entire process and can represent you if you need to give evidence in a car accident deposition. To see if you have a claim, call 855-LAW-NINJA or fill out our confidential contact form.