Personal Injury

What Questions Will the Defendant Get Asked at a Dog Bite Deposition?

Reviewed by David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

When you are sued because your dog bit someone, you may be required to go to a deposition. A deposition is an interview conducted under oath about facts relevant to the case.

In most dog bite lawsuits, the defendant is the owner of the dog in question, and during the defendant's deposition, the attorney representing the victim of the dog bite will ask most of the questions. It’s important to remember that these questions need to be answered truthfully. That said, during any deposition it is best to not provide extraneous details or drawn-out explanations. Stick to answering the question that was asked. Every word of a deposition is recorded by a court reporter, and what’s said during a deposition can be used as evidence during the trial.

If you’re being deposed in a dog bite case, you should bring an attorney. He or she can object if you’ve been asked a question that is irrelevant, leading, or otherwise inappropriate. Unless your lawyer objects, you’ll need to answer each question to the best of your knowledge. If you’re unsure of an answer, don’t guess! It’s okay to say that you don’t know. You can also take your time before answering, and you will be able to ask for a break to use the restroom or to get a drink if you need to.

Fault in a Dog Bite Case

While the specifics regarding dog bite law vary from state to state, in most cases the plaintiff’s attorney in a dog bite case will be attempting to gather information that will establish that the dog owner’s negligence played a part in the attack.

This could mean the attorney will try to show that the dog owner failed to obtain the proper training for the dog or failed to properly restrain the dog under the circumstances. The attorney may also attempt to show that the animal was a "dangerous dog" as defined by the state's laws. (Learn more about Dog Owner Liability here.)

Questions About the Dog and Its History

Initial questions during a dog bite deposition will cover topics such as:

  • basic information about the dog, such as its breed, age, and size

  • how long the owner has had the dog

  • the identity of any previous owners of the dog

  • the dog’s health history, including any previous or current health issues

  • information about any behavioral or obedience training the dog has undergone

  • whether the dog ever bit anyone in the past, whether there was any legal claim linked to those prior incidents, and the outcome of any such claims

  • whether the dog exhibited aggressive behavior in the past, and

  • the dog owner’s prior experience with dogs, dog training, and dog handling

Questions About the Incident

The plaintiff's attorney will also ask:

  • information about where the attack took place

  • whether there was fencing, "Beware of Dog" signs, and the like

  • if the dog owner witnessed the attack, specifics about the sequence of events during the attack, and

  • the identity of any other witnesses to the incident.

The lawyer asking the questions may also ask the defendant to speculate as to why the attack occurred. It’s important to consult with an experienced dog bite attorney prior to the deposition to determine the best way to approach this question. While it’s never okay to lie during a deposition, it's also never a good idea to speculate about what-ifs, or to talk yourself into a corner you can't get out of. (Learn more about injury depositions in general in our article on What Happens at the Deposition in a Personal Injury Case?)

You’ll need to be careful when it comes to how you answer (or don’t answer) questions about exactly how and why the dog bite occurred, so it's important to work closely with your attorney to make sure you're as prepared as possible.

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