What Happens During a Deposition in Illinois?
May 14, 2019 Published in Personal Injury
A deposition is something that happens during the discovery phase of a court case. It is one of the many pre-trial processes that allow both parties to create their strategies moving forward. Depositions involve witnesses answering questions about the case, during interrogations from both sides. The goal of a deposition is to give both parties in a personal injury claim all the facts of a case before a trial. What happens after a deposition generally remains the same from case to case in Illinois.
Why are depositions important in Illinois?
Depositions are the first opportunity to give your testimony on the record and share your versions of events. A deposition creates a written record that can be used to impeach (refute) testimony at trial if the testimony is different from what is said during the deposition. One important aspect of a deposition is that anyone involved in the accident may be deposed, including third-party witnesses to the accident.
Depositions give a person a chance to state the facts and circumstances of their case in their own words. They also allow for personal injury attorneys for both sides to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the case. They give both sides of a case a chance to know how a person deposed your testify in the event the case goes to trial.
What is a Deposition?
Depositions are a valuable portion of the discovery phase of a personal injury case. They give both sides the opportunity to question any possible witnesses who may have information pertinent to the case. Attorneys from both sides of a case have an opportunity to ask witnesses information about the details, facts, and circumstances of the case. Depositions happen at specific times, dates, and places. You will know in advance when one is going to happen. Depositions typically occur after a lawsuit is filed but before the trial. If you receive notice that you need to submit to a deposition, then you have to participate. Typically, a deposition happens at an attorney’s office and not in a courtroom.
You are under oath during a deposition. This means that you are required to give truthful answers to the best of your ability. Everything said in a deposition will be recorded and can be used in court at a later date.
How to conduct yourself in a deposition
Depositions can be stressful, and those who have to give one are often self-conscious about everything they do and say. Some basic tips for deposition conduct can help alleviate any deposition stress you may have.
- Be polite and professional. You should arrive at the deposition on time, well-dressed, and well-groomed. Avoid small talk before the deposition. When the other side’s attorney begins asking questions, your answers should be clear and concise. Answers should be straightforward. You can ask clarifying questions if there is something you do not understand.
- Stick to the facts. Depositions are question and answer, and you should only answer the question asked based on the facts as you know them. Do not try to answer questions that have not been asked. Answer a question that is asked and then wait for the next question.
- Do not rush. You do not have to rush your questions, so take your rime and give thought out, truthful answers. Let the opposing attorney finish their question before answering. You can pause for a moment to collect your thoughts before answering. This also gives your lawyer time to object to anything if they need to.
- Be truthful. You are under oath in these depositions, so you need to answer the attorney’s questions honestly. Failing to do so could have serious consequences. You can also tell the opposing attorney you are not sure about the question they are asking. Saying “I don’t recall” is often the only way to honestly answer a question.
- Be prepared. You will want to prepare for a deposition with your attorney, by taking the time to anticipate what the opposing attorney will ask. You can role-play a deposition with your attorney ahead of time.
A Court Reporter Transcribes the Deposition
Court reporters are present during depositions. It is their jobs to transcribe the testimonies witnesses give under oath. The court reporters will listen to the depositions and transcribe them in real time, using a stenography device that lets the reporter quickly type what was said in a form of shorthand. Then, the court reporter will transcribe the pages of shorthand into standard English. A typical deposition transcription will take a few weeks to produce.
Both Parties Review the Transcripts
Once the deposition transcripts become available, both parties will have the opportunity to look them over for mistakes or inconsistencies. Mistakes may occur through the transcribing process itself, or through something a witness said during testimony. If either party realizes that someone misstated a fact or that the court reporter misquoted a witness, it can request a correction. Most attorney use special software to assess deposition transcripts. Personal injury attorneys can request additional depositions, if necessary.
Updates to Legal Strategies
After making sure the deposition transcripts are complete and accurate, attorneys from both sides will use the information to update their legal strategies. Facts may have come out during depositions that one or both parties did not previously know. Lawyers will spend days or even weeks perusing deposition transcripts for anything that could help or hurt the case. An attorney may update his or her strategy based on what a client said during deposition, and then inform the client of any changes going forward.
If a witness said something incriminating during depositions, his or her attorney may update the strategy based on this information. Witnesses can elect to have their attorneys present during depositions, to help them avoid saying something that could negatively impact the case. A lawyer can request other witness depositions to fill any gaps his or her client left during the interrogation.
Post deposition, one or both attorneys may order additional discovery. Follow-ups are relatively common after depositions. Attorneys may realize they need to obtain additional documents, subpoena other witnesses, or verify facts that came forward during deposition. Follow-up discovery during a personal injury claim often involves the defense asking the plaintiff to undergo a medical examination under the physician of the defense’s choice. The insurance company will choose the doctor the plaintiff sees. The plaintiff’s attorney will help him or her know how to go through the exam.
Settlement or Trial
Upon completion of all discovery procedures and follow-up requests, the parties will work to settle the case out of the courts. The plaintiff’s attorney will negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company, with the goal of settling the case for a fair compensation amount. Most personal injury claims reach successful settlements post-deposition without the need to go to trial. This can save both parties time and money. However, some personal injury cases require trials for full recovery.
Personal injury attorneys will prepare their clients for trial, if need be. Deposition transcripts may come forward during a trial to compare them with ongoing witness testimony. If a witness cannot attend the trial, the lawyer can use the transcription of his or her deposition as a substitute. All deposition information is fair game during a court trial, since witnesses offered it under oath. Witnesses may have the opportunity to clear up something they said during depositions while on the bench. Hiring a Springfield personal injury attorney can help either party navigate post-depositions processes.