What are Depositions and How Do They Work?

A common legal term you may have heard but may not be familiar with is a “deposition”, which is also commonly referred to as an examination before trial. As a personal injury lawyer with over 30 years of experience representing clients on Long Island, I know that when one of my clients has to appear for a deposition, they tend to get nervous. 

My job as their lawyer is to guide them through the litigation process and to help ease their anxieties and nerves. If you’re looking to gain more insight into what a deposition is and how they work, I have compiled some of the most important definitions and facts below.

What is a deposition?

A deposition, or examination before trial, is where the insurance company’s lawyers have an opportunity to ask you questions under oath. Cornell University explains that depositions are used to gather information as part of the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, may be used at trial.

During these interviews, your testimony is taken down into a deposition transcript which is then sent to you afterwards for you to review. Upon reviewing, you have the opportunity to make any necessary changes and execute it (sign it) before returning it back to your lawyer.

What is the purpose of a deposition?

The purpose of an examination before trial is for an insurance company and their lawyers to better understand what the claims are and what you will testify to if the case goes to trial. In addition to learning the facts and what you will share with a jury, another part of a deposition is for the lawyers to learn more about you. 

First, they will determine whether or not you are credible and if people are going to believe your story. Next, they will consider your likeability and how sympathetic you are. If an insurance company determines that you are likeable and believable, you are a danger to them and their lawyers. 

How depositions work

Depositions will first start off with some basic facts about you like your name, address, social security number, date of birth, where do you live, how long have you lived there, who you live with, etc. Then they will slowly take you to the date of the accident and ask questions like “where were you going”, “where were you coming from”, “what were you doing”, “what roads did you take”, “what speed were you traveling”, etc. and their questions will be leading up to the point of impact if you were in a car accident. For slips and falls they will ask similar questions, but will also dive into other specifics related to the fall like “what shoes were you wearing”, “where were you looking”, and more.

Next, the lawyers will ask about what physically happened to you and your body. They will ask you the specifics about which body parts were injured and will go chronologically through your treatments beginning with the hospital or emergency care center visit directly following the injury. Everything regarding your visits to doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists will be examined and discussed at this point.

What happens at the end of the deposition?

As a deposition comes to a close, you will be asked two very important questions:

  1.  Are there any things that you used to do before the date of the accident that you (a) can’t do at all anymore, (b) can still do them but not as well, or (c) you can still do them the same way, but it causes you pain or you pay for it after you do it?
  2. What are your current complaints and aches and pains? Keep in mind this is not just the day of your deposition but also in the last 30 or 60 days. 

New York State open discovery process

One thing to note if you live in New York State is that we have a very open discovery process where each side basically has to show the other side their hands. The transparency gained by a deposition is crucial because each side becomes aware of what they are facing if the case goes to trial including evidence and defenses. This then helps each side evaluate the costs and the risks of going to trial and oftentimes encourages settlement.

My goal is always to help my clients every step of the way so they feel prepared and confident. I hope this sheds some light on what depositions are and what to expect about the process, but if you ever have any other questions about a deposition, you are welcome to give me a call at 631-495-9435 or contact me here and I will be more than happy to help.

Click the video below to watch a video from Mark where he goes into a detailed explanation about depositions and what to expect!