What Is a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case?

A deposition is a critically important part of any civil claim. It is a way for the parties to gather evidence, examine the strength of their relative cases, and determine how to best proceed in litigation. A deposition memorializes witness testimony in a formal record before trial. It preserves evidence, builds evidence for the case, and examines the relative positions of each party when it comes to the case.

Using the deposition process effectively can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Our Miami personal injury attorneys explain what a deposition is and why it matters in your civil case.

What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is oral testimony given under oath as part of a legal proceeding. A person who may or may not be a party to the case is sworn to tell the truth. Then, the parties ask the person questions about things related to the lawsuit.

A deposition is not held in a courtroom before a judge. However, the person being deposed is still under oath and legally obligated to tell the truth. A deposition is a formal legal proceeding where a party or witness answers questions under oath outside of a courtroom setting.

Personal Injury Deposition

What Is the Main Purpose of a Deposition?

The primary purpose of a deposition is to make a recording of a party’s testimony. The parties may then use the deposition to build on the information they receive from the deposition and gather more evidence. They may also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case to determine whether to settle the case.

A deposition solidifies a witness’ statement in a formally recorded format. Under some circumstances, the deposition is admissible at trial. However, the main purpose of a deposition is to make a recorded statement of a person’s testimony under oath.

What Is the Deposition Process?

The deposition process is the parties meeting, the officer swearing-in the witness, and the witness answering questions, under oath, from each party. The deposition process begins with scheduling a date and time for the process. The parties and the hearing officer meet at the scheduled time and place. The officer swears in the witness.

The party requesting the deposition begins by asking questions of the witness. The witness may answer or refuse to answer if there is an exception that applies. Next, the deposition process involves the other party asking questions until both parties are satisfied that the deposition process is complete.

Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.310 – Depositions

Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.310 is the Florida court rule titled Depositions Upon Oral Examination.[1] The rule states when and under what circumstances a party to a legal proceeding may compel an oral deposition.

The rule states when a deposition may be taken after a civil action begins. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.310 states the rules for how to conduct the deposition as well as how to preserve an audio-visual record of the deposition and provide it to all parties.

What Happens After a Deposition?

After a deposition, the parties may act on what they learn and observe during the deposition. Either party may:

  • Approach the court to compel testimony if the person being deposed objects to answering a question
  • Seek a copy of the deposition from the party that keeps the audio-visual recording
  • Use information that they learn in the deposition to build more evidence
  • Seek to admit the recording at trial if the witness is unavailable for trial
  • Use the information to evaluate their stance and consider settling the case

Can I Refuse to Give a Deposition?

No, you typically cannot refuse to give a deposition. You generally must appear and swear to tell the truth. However, there are some exceptions to the testimony that you have to give in a deposition. Even though the rules of evidence, in general, don’t apply, there are still some circumstances where you can refuse to answer questions in a deposition.

For example, the other side can’t ask you irrelevant questions that are just meant to harass or embarrass you. In addition, you can refuse to answer questions if they interfere with your right to remain silent. You may refuse to answer questions that may subject you to criminal liability. You may have an attorney represent you at your deposition. If you’re concerned about possible testimony and want to know when you can refuse to give a deposition, an experienced attorney can help you understand and protect your rights.

What to Expect at a Deposition

When you arrive at a deposition, you can expect to see the attorneys and a court recorder. The other party might be there, but they don’t have to be if their attorney is there. The person being deposed takes an oath, to tell the truth. Then, the party who noticed the deposition begins by asking the person questions.

Your attorney may object to specific questions, and there might be disputes about what the person has to answer. Once the first attorney runs out of questions, the other attorney can ask questions, too. After both parties are satisfied they’ve gotten to ask all the questions they want, the deposition ends. The deposition is usually video recorded, written down by a stenographer, or both.

Why Is a Deposition Important?

A deposition is important because it creates a record of the witness’ statement. If the witness changes their story later, the inconsistency is likely going to become a big issue in their credibility and the case. In addition, with skilled deposition practice, you can make your case stronger.

The deposition process narrows the contested issues and reveals the evidence to both sides. By conducting depositions strategically, you can show the other side that it’s in their best interests to reach a fair settlement.

Contact Our Miami Personal Injury Lawyers If You Need Help With Your Civil Case

The Miami personal injury attorneys at Bernstein & Maryanoff are skilled and prepared to help you build your case using depositions. Let us help you win the compensation that you deserve. Contact us to begin today. There is no fee unless you win.

[1] Florida Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 1.310. (n.d.). Retrieved 17 March 2020 

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

Jack Bernstein is a hard working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you've been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.