What Is the Deposition Process in Sacramento?

During a personal injury court case, both parties will have to undergo a process called deposition. Depositions occur during the discovery phase of a lawsuit – a pretrial phase in which both parties host interviews with those involved to learn more about the case. Depositions can seem daunting as the victim of a personal injury, but your experienced Sacramento personal injury lawyer can walk you through the process. California law permits you to have an attorney present during depositions.

The Definition of Deposition

A deposition is a process attorneys use to gain information and evidence about a case. The goal of a deposition is to level the playing field between both sides of a case and avoid surprises during the trial itself. During the deposition process, interviews, interrogations, and the swapping of documents and information services to inform both sides on the facts and details of the personal injury case. It is against the law for witnesses to lie during depositions, as they are under sworn oath, to tell the truth.

Aside from gathering information, deposition also helps each side understand the strengths and weaknesses of a case. A lawyer can examine how a witness might testify at trial, and give pointers to clients as to how to do better next time. Depositions can change a lawyer’s legal strategy moving forward. The lawyer may need to include any new information that came to light during the deposition, or alter a strategy because the witness said something that hurt the case. If you are afraid of saying the wrong thing during a deposition, have an attorney present.

What to Expect During Deposition

During the deposition, a subpoenaed person will appear to give sworn testimony at a specified time and location. Before deposition, the person’s lawyer can give him or her tips as to what to wear, what to say, how to act, and what not to say. Court reporters are typically present in the room while the individual gives his or her testimony. The court reporter will use a special device to transcribe everything said during the deposition. The reporter will later complete and send the transcriptions to both parties for review.

Depositions are similar to trials in that the person giving testimony must swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The person giving testimony will have to answer questions from the lawyer on the other side (also like a trial). In most cases, testimony spoken during the deposition will be admissible as evidence in court. It is not possible to refuse to attend a deposition if someone has subpoenaed you. The subpoena commands you to appear and give testimony, or else face the actions of the court.

Protections for Subpoenaed Witnesses

The deposition process can feel overwhelming as the victim in a personal injury claim. The thought of the other side’s attorney asking you questions under oath may make you nervous. Luckily, the law permits your lawyer to be by your side throughout the process – including during questioning. The deposition will take place in an attorney’s office, not a courtroom. Your lawyer can object to improper inquiries during your deposition to help preserve your rights. However, the law obligates you to answer all questions regardless of objections during the deposition. Later, during the trial, the judge will rule on which questions to allow as evidence.

Your lawyer may not coach your testimony during deposition. The lawyer will play a much smaller role than he or she will during the actual trial. Do not worry, however – much of what someone says during deposition is hearsay, and thus inadmissible as evidence. The only exceptions are if the witness says something against his or her interests, if the testimony at trial contradicts what he or she said during the deposition, or if a witness cannot make it to trial. Work with an attorney to prepare for the deposition process to be safe.