In a deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer asks the other party or a witness from the other party a series of questions, which the person must then answer under oath. A form of testimony, a deposition occurs outside of a courtroom. Both sides can request depositions from the other party to establish facts that may help them build their case.
Depositions take place during discovery, which the Legal Information Institute (LII) defines as the pre-trial process by which the parties in a civil action gather information to help them prepare for trial. While wrongful death cases can end in a settlement before the case reaches trial, information obtained during discovery can help both parties negotiate a settlement, as well.
Attorneys can use depositions in wrongful death lawsuits, which some plaintiffs may find intimidating. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence and must take part in a deposition, a lawyer can provide you with a thorough understanding of the process, what to expect, and how it may affect your claim.
How the Deposition Process Works
Depositions have a structured procedure and require planning. The interrogation must pertain to the case, so the attorney will not ask you spontaneous, unrelated questions. As Indiana University School of Law explains, depositions typically begin with formalities, such as verbally starting the procedure, identifying everyone in the room, swearing in the witness, and explaining what will happen.
Once the formal questioning begins, a lawyer will ask you questions about yourself and your case, which may include those about:
- Any documents you have
- Your background and criminal record
- The timeline of events in your case
- Your familiarity with certain documents
- Allegations against the defendant
- The basis for requested financial awards
If you have an upcoming deposition, remember that you must answer the questions as honestly and accurately as possible. A lawyer can prepare you for the deposition so you can feel confident throughout the process.
Reasons for a Lawyer to Request a Deposition
The 2019 edition of the Depositions Answer Book outlines the many reasons a lawyer might request the deposition of the other party, involved witnesses, or both. In each circumstance, the lawyer’s goal is to gather information that can help them build their case for their client before settlement negotiations or trial. Reasons for a deposition may include:
- Learning more information about the case from the other side
- Seeking admissions of fact from the deponent, including the authentication of documents
- Testing their theories regarding the case
- Identifying areas where no disputes exist
- Preserving the testimony of a witness who may not have the availability to attend trial
- Evaluating the credibility of a witness
Regardless of the attorney’s purpose for requesting your deposition, how you should respond to their questions does not change. You do not have the responsibility of determining their reasoning or understanding their goals, both of which a lawyer can handle on your behalf.
Types of Depositions
Depositions vary by their type and the circumstances of the case. While some take only minutes, others can last hours. Depositions can take place in an attorney’s office, a courthouse, or a conference room. In some cases, both party’s legal teams attend a deposition.
One form of deposition involves the verbal questioning of a party or witness. Oral depositions often involve several parties, including the witness(es), both lawyers, a court reporter to record the transcript of the interrogation, a notary public to swear in the witness, and sometimes, a videographer.
If you have a lawyer present with you, they cannot tell you what you can and cannot say in response to the other attorney’s questions. Legal teams typically only use the results of depositions to prepare for trial or settlement negotiations, but courts may admit them in trial under certain circumstances.
A deponent may also take place in a written deposition, in which the attorney provides written questions in advance, and the deponent answers them in writing as truthfully as possible before submitting their responses. Written depositions may offer a certain level of convenience as lawyers do not need to attend, but they also limit the attorney who requested the deposition, as they do not allow for follow-up questions.
A Lawyer Can Help You Prepare for a Deposition
Since you are already dealing with the challenges of losing someone you love, you may find the idea of a deposition intimidating. However, with the help of a wrongful death lawyer, you do not have to manage the process alone. Your lawyer will give you all the details you need to prepare so that you can feel informed and confident about the deposition process.
If you have lost a loved one as the result of another person’s negligence, the legal team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can help you fight for your case. Contact us today at (800) 593-3443 to discuss your free case evaluation with our legal team.