If you're involved in a car accident, you might find yourself facing a deposition at some point. This is a common step any time a car accident case ends up in court, but the prospect of a deposition can be intimidating when you're not sure what to expect—especially in terms of the kinds of questions you'll need to answer. That's where this article comes in.
What Is a Car Accident Deposition?
First things first. A deposition is a question-and-answer session in which someone (called the "deponent") gives testimony under oath in response to questions from an attorney. In legal proceedings after a car accident, a deponent might be:
- one of the drivers involved in the crash
- a passenger, or
- an eyewitness to the accident.
Depositions aren't part of a car accident case unless a lawsuit is filed in court. So, if you're only making a car insurance claim after an accident, you're not going to need to worry about having your deposition taken as part of the claim process.
But when a car accident lawsuit is filed, depositions are a key part of the information-gathering phase of things (called, appropriately enough, "discovery"). Typically, car accident deposition questions cover three main areas:
- your personal background
- how the accident happened, and
- if you're the plaintiff, the nature and extent of your car accident injuries, the course of your medical treatment, and the effects of the crash on your life.
Within these three main topics you can expect questions on a range of sub-topics. Let's look at each of these areas in more detail.
(Note: Your own car accident deposition likely won't include all of these questions, and the phrasing/specifics will almost certainly be different, but most of the subject matter we'll cover here is fair game.)
Questions About Your Background
- What is your full name, address, telephone number, and date of birth?
- Please state the different residential addresses you've lived at for the past 10 years or so.
- What is the highest level of education you've received?
- Any additional education or formal training you've received since you left school?
Questions About Your Family
- What is your marital/relationship status?
- How many children do you have?
- What is your current living situation (who lives with you now, and who lived with you at the time of the accident)?
Questions About Your Health and Medical Background
- Did you have other injuries and health issues that existed before this accident?
- Have you experienced other injuries and health issues since this accident?
- Do you have any chronic health problems?
- Tell us about the doctors you've seen during the last 10 years (or so) and the types of treatment you've received (especially treatment on any parts of your body that were injured in this accident).
Questions About Your Employment History
- Tell us about your last several jobs.
- Tell us about your current job (duties, physical requirements, hours, pay, supervisor, co-workers).
- Have you missed time at work during the last five years (or so)? If so, how much time have you missed, and for what reason?
Questions About Your Criminal/Civil/Claims Background
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Have you ever filed a lawsuit of any kind?
- Have you ever made any other kinds of administrative claims, such as a workers' compensation claim?
Questions About How the Car Accident Happened
- When and where did the car accident happen (time, date, day of week, and location)?
- Where were you coming from and where were you headed?
- What were the weather conditions?
- What were the traffic conditions?
- Were there any traffic control devices, such as traffic lights, stop signs, other signage, lane markings, etc. involved?
- Exactly what did each driver do (or seem to do) and when? Be prepared for specific questions about times and distances.
- How far was the other car from you when you first saw it?
- Where was the other car on the roadway at the time?
- How fast were you going?
- How fast was the other car going?
- What areas of the vehicles collided (i.e. driver's side fender, passenger side door)?
- Where did the cars come to rest?
- What happened to your body inside the vehicle when the collision occurred?
- Did any part of your body hit any part of the car?
- Did you drink any alcohol during the 24 hours before the accident?
Tip: If you don't know the answers to these (or any) questions, don't guess.
Questions About What Happened After the Car Accident
- Did you speak to the other driver after the accident and, if so, what did each of you say?
- Did either of you admit responsibility for causing the accident? (Remember, be careful what you say at the scene of a car accident.)
- What happened to your car after it was hit?
- What physical damage did each car have?
- Was your car repaired? How much did the repairs cost?
- Who were the witnesses to the accident?
- Do you have any photos or diagrams that show the accident scene? (You may be asked to draw a rough diagram of the accident scene showing how it happened.)
- Who came to the accident scene?
- Do you know of any reports generated in connection with the accident? (such as a police report)
Your Car Accident Injuries and Medical Treatment
- What injuries do you claim were caused by this accident?
- Did you have any health conditions before the accident that you contend were aggravated (made worse) by the accident?
- What doctors and other health care providers have you seen for treatment of your car accident injuries?
- What symptoms did you have at the scene of the accident? Did you get out of your car and walk around at the scene?
- When did you first get medical care after the car accident? What did you tell the doctor about your symptoms at that first visit?
- What were your car accident injury symptoms over time? Did your symptoms any get better? Which symptoms and when?
- If there were any gaps in your medical care (periods of several weeks or more that you did not get any treatment), why did you not get treatment?
- What symptoms, if any, do you still have that you attribute to this accident?
- How much have you incurred in medical bills so far?
Effects of the Car Accident and Your Injuries
- Have you missed any time from work as a result of this accident? How much? When?
- What amount of lost income are you claiming?
- Do you claim that you will miss work or lose income in the future as a result of this accident? If so, explain.
- How have your injuries affected your day-to-day activities?
- What are the things that you cannot do at all as a result of your injuries?
- What are the things that you cannot do as well (or as often or for as long) as usual as a result of your injuries?
- How has your injury affected your personal relationships, i.e. your marriage? Loss or reduction of sex? Loss of enjoyment of other activities together?
- Are you claiming that the accident and your injuries caused you to miss a trip or other special activity?
Learn More About Car Accident Depositions
If you've filed a car accident lawsuit and you've learned that you'll need to have your deposition taken, chances are you've already turned your case over to an experienced legal professional. In that situation, your lawyer will take the lead in preparing you for your deposition—what to expect from the process, and what kind of questions to anticipate—and will be right next to you during the deposition itself. Learn more about how car accident lawyers handle your case.
If you've been sued over a car accident and you've received a "Notice of Deposition" advising you that you'll need to have your deposition taken, you might have questions of your own. You might start by contacting your car insurance company. If your car insurance covers the accident and you're facing a lawsuit, your insurance company will likely want one of its lawyers sitting next to you during the deposition.