If you are involved in a car accident, you may want to seek damages for losses with a civil suit. Generally, civil actions in each state follow the same format, which can be divided into three stages. First, the plaintiff begins the lawsuit by filing a petition with the court. The defendant responds to the lawsuit by filing documents with the court, and the case is initiated.
Next, the lawsuit moves into the longest phase, called “discovery.” During discovery, each party in the case takes as much time as necessary to exchange information and documents relevant to their claims and defenses, In a car accident lawsuit, the first thing done in discovery is usually the exchange of written documentation relating to the accident, such as medical records, medical bills, witness statements, police reports, and photographs of the scene.
In order to get information relevant to the case, a party may initiate a deposition. A deposition is where one party is allowed to ask oral questions of another party regarding information pertinent to the car accident. Typically, the questions are asked by an attorney. A deposition can be taken from:
- the drivers of the cars involved in the accident
- passengers who were riding in the cars involved in the accident
- witnesses to the accident
- doctors who provided medical treatment to the parties
- investigating police officers
- any party possessing pertinent information
Depositions can occur anywhere, however most courts require that the deposition be held at a location reasonably close to where the witness lives. There can be exceptions to this rule. Depositions often are held in an attorney’s office, though they can be held anywhere. Only a few people are present at a deposition, usually including:
- the attorney who is requesting the deposition, or the individual party if the party does not have an attorney
- the witness
- the witness’s attorney, if the witness prefers
- any other attorneys representing parties in the lawsuit
- the court reporter.
The court reporter plays an important role in a deposition. A witness supplies all testimony under oath. The court reported records every word of the deposition. If the witness is found later to have purposefully supplied false information, they could be subject to civil or criminal penalties.
The content of the deposition varies depending on the case. If the Plaintiff is claiming injuries, the defense attorney will probably ask questions regarding the nature and severity of the injuries. The attorney might also ask questions to find out how the accident occurred. The questions ask also vary depending on the witness. If the witness is one of the Plaintiff’s physicians, the defense attorney may ask them questions about the type of treatment they have administered.
Each state has rules regarding the notice given to the witness in the deposition. A certain amount of notice is required so that a witness does not have to worry about receiving a notice that they must attend a deposition the very next day. Typically, at least five business days of notice is required. In addition, depositions are usually scheduled by an agreement of both parties, so that they can choose a time most convenient for their schedules.