A deposition, such as in an automobile accident case, is a formal process where you will be questioned by the opposing party's legal counsel to gather potential evidence for the case. Depositions occur prior to trial and the venue is typically a conference room at one of the attorney's offices or possibly at the office of the party to be deposed. Testimony in a deposition is conducted under oath and is transcribed by a court reporter or otherwise documented, and it may be videotaped.
Purposes of Depositions
In a deposition, the opposing party has the opportunity to meet you and make assessments. Your attorney will accompany you and you should be dressed nicely as the opposing counsel is likely gauging how you will be received by a jury. The attorney will ask you questions regarding your version of the facts. Your answers should be consistent because the opposing party may capitalize on discrepancies or contradictions that you may make. Answers should be limited to only the material necessary to address the question without volunteering further information.
Common Questions in Personal Injury Case Depositions
Some of the more common questions that you potentially may be asked include the following:
- How would you describe your occupation and educational background?
- Did you have any pre-existing health conditions prior to the accident?
- What (if any) tasks or activities are you now unable to complete since the accident?
- How would you describe the nature of your injuries?
- How would you describe the medical treatment you received?
- What were the events that occurred that day leading up to the incident?
- Has the injury caused you to take some time off work?
- Do you have any history of substance abuse?
- Did you consume any alcohol on the day of the incident?
- Were there any other occupants in the vehicle with you at the time?
- Where was the other vehicle occupant positioned at the time of the collision?
- What (if any) long-term ramifications are associated with these injuries?
Time Frame & Schedule
You may be presented with (served) a subpoena requesting your presence for a deposition. If you are required to provide testimony at a deposition hearing, you should generally be given a minimum seven-day advanced notice. You may also receive a subpoena that requires you to provide various document(s). For this kind of subpoena, you are typically afforded a fourteen-day notice.
The actual time initially scheduled for the oral deposition is 6 hours. In 2015, there were some changes made to the Colorado civil procedures, including one involving Rule 30—Depositions Upon Oral Examination. The legislature changed the standard time allotted for witness deposition from seven hours to six hours. Break times are not included in the six-hour time for deposing witnesses.
Colorado requires that subpoenas include some general information to properly inform the recipient. The document must indicate the court where the subpoena was issued and indicate the court where the matter will be conducted. It must contain the specific details including time, date and location. The contact information for all attorneys involved in the action should be listed. If the subpoena is requesting your appearance for a deposition, it should include the method that will be used to record the testimony.
Colorado residents are generally required to appear for a deposition held within the county where they live, work, or conduct business. Those who are out-of-state residents are only required to appear when they are within a 40-mile radius. Those who fail to appear may be subject to contempt of court and face additional penalties. The issuing party may be required to pay mileage expenses for those subpoenaed.
In civil matters such as personal injury cases, tools that may be used as part of the process of discovery include written interrogatories. These are written documents used to obtain much of the same information that may be derived from a deposition. The Colorado Supreme Court created some public forms that parties have the option of using. The party subject to an interrogatory must answer the questions. It is strongly recommended that the process of responding be conducted with assistance from your attorney, who also may raise objections to questions.
A deposition can be scary. Nonetheless, with the assistance of your personal injury lawyer and meticulous preparation, those fears should subside.