Passengers who are involved in vehicle accidents often have a unique perspective on the crash. They were directly involved in the accident and often saw what happened, yet they are usually not named as parties in a lawsuit over the crash.
Nevertheless, because passengers are so directly involved in car crashes, they are often asked to give a deposition if the accident results in a lawsuit. A deposition is a formal proceeding in which a witness is placed under oath and his or her testimony is recorded for use in the case.
In this article, we'll cover the basics of giving a deposition as a passenger in a car accident case. We'll look at how to prepare, what questions to expect, and what guidelines to follow when giving answers. (Learn more about the Discovery Process in a Car Accident Case.)
Preparing for your deposition can help refresh your memory and calm any nervousness you might feel about giving testimony. Things you can do to prepare include:
Think about what happened. Remembering a car accident isn't always pleasant; accidents are traumatic experiences. However, spending some time refreshing your memory as to what happened can prepare you to discuss it calmly and clearly during your deposition. Review any notes you have, and look at lists of common car accident deposition questions to anticipate the sorts of questions you may need to answer.
Speak to your attorney, if you have one. Your attorney can help you prepare for your deposition and provide specific advice about protecting your legal rights related to the case, especially if you are making your own injury claim in connection with the accident.
Review prior statements. If you have given any prior statements in the case -- whether to police, insurance adjusters, the parties to the accident, or their attorneys -- review these statements before your deposition. This review will help you avoid making the kinds of inconsistent statements that attorneys and insurance adjusters are famous for zeroing in on.
Arrive at least 15 minutes early for your deposition, so you can get acclimated to your surroundings and take care of any last-minute details before the deposition begins. Dress appropriately; for most depositions, business-appropriate clothing that makes you feel comfortable is fine.
During the deposition, keep the following tips in mind. They will help you answer questions properly and think clearly through what happened the day of the accident:
Be honest. If you don't remember something, say "I don't remember." The only "wrong" answers in a deposition are answers that are not honest; it is appropriate to admit when you don't know, didn't see something, or cannot remember.
Take a few seconds to pause before answering each question. A pause lets you collect your thoughts. It also allows the attorneys present to object to the question, and it gives you control over the pacing of the deposition.
Don't become angry or intimidated by the questioner. All you can offer is what you actually remember. As long as you state what you remember as clearly as you can, you are not responsible for a questioner's disbelief, frustration, anger, or judgmental behavior.
If you realize you made a mistake or stated something incorrectly, mention it. For instance, if you realize you remembered the date incorrectly, say "I'd like to go back to your question about the date. I said it was June 15, 2012, but now I remember it was actually June 17, 2012."
Passengers who are not parties to a car accident case are usually deposed because they can give a first-hand account of what happened. Consequently, the questions you will be asked will likely fall into one of the following categories:
Basic information. These questions cover background information about you, your relationship to the parties in the case, and how you came to be a passenger in the vehicle that was involved in the crash.
Weather and traffic conditions. Was it light or dark outside? What was the weather doing? Was there heavy traffic? What was the condition of the road -- dry, wet, icy, cracked, under construction?
Condition of the driver. Was the driver of the vehicle you were in alert, sober, and in generally good health? Was the driver distracted by conversation, the radio, or events outside the vehicle?
The accident itself. Exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the accident, during the accident itself, and in the moments immediately following the accident? A large number of the questions will likely focus on the accident and what you and others in the vehicle did in the moments immediately before and after the collision.
Get more information on Discovery and Depositions in Car Accident Cases.