Indiana medical malpractice and personal injury lawyer discusses the deposition process.
If you've been injured in an accident and you have to go into a lawsuit because of your injuries. You will be giving a deposition. Many lawyers take depositions for granted. The deposition, however, is one of the most important things a personal injury client will do in their case. If you do well in your deposition, it will go a long way to resolving your case. If you do poorly in your deposition, you will give the defendant all the ammunition they need to continue the defense.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a statement under oath where one or more attorneys will ask the witness questions about practically anything. Yes. I said practically anything. Why is that? Because the scope and topic areas of a deposition can be very broad. The legal standard is that an attorney can seek discovery on any matter that is not privileged and can lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Purpose of a Deposition
I see a deposition as having three main purposes:
Locks Down the Witness' Testimony
A deposition is under oath, and because it's under oath, the statements made can be used for or against the witness in motions, at hearings and at trial. If a witness testifies one way in deposition and another at hearing or trial, they will be impeached and lose credibility.
Establishes the Facts and Opinions Known to the Witness
Depositions are efficient in determining the nature and extent of the witness' facts and opinions. Some witnesses may have knowledge relating to a minor point in a case, and others, such as a injured person, will have knowledge regarding most of the issues in a case. An injured person will be questioned about the facts of the accident, the injuries, prior injuries, subsequent injuries, prior accidents, subsequent accidents, background, education, past medical treatment, medical treatment related to the accident, future medical treatment, how the injuries have impacted the ability to function, how the injuries have impacted the rest of the person's life.
Allows the Lawyer to See What Kind of Witness the Person Makes
A lot of the other information can be gathered from other sources like medical records. Probably the most important thing a lawyer will learn from a deposition is what kind of witness the deponent makes. If an injured person is giving her deposition, the defense lawyer, who is typically hired by the insurance company, will be the eyes and ears of the adjuster who will be making any payment decisions. If the lawyer likes the witness and believes she is credible, he will report these things to the insurance company. If the lawyer dislikes the injured person and thinks she is making things up, exaggerating her injuries or is a poor historian, he will also report these things to the insurance adjuster.
Let me give you an example. Last week, I was in a deposition in a slip and fall case, which always has liability issues. My client was well spoken and a good historian. He did not overplay his injuries and testified that they had all cleared up except for one. The deposition ended and my client left. About 15 minutes later, I saw the other lawyer in the elevator and she said “my client was a nice guy.” This information will be reported to the insurance company and I have no doubt we will resolve this matter before trial.
The key to a strong deposition for an injured person is preparation. Many lawyers do not take the necessary time to prepare their clients because they think the client has firsthand knowledge of the things that he is going to be question on so preparation is not necessary. Depositions are intimidating for clients and they need to be thoroughly prepared because one or two slip-ups can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful outcome.
If you have any questions about a Northwest Indiana medical malpractice or personal injury case or would like to ask a question about the deposition process, call our Michigan City personal injury lawyers at (219) 874-4878 or fill out the internet consultation box to the right.