Both before cases are filed in either civil or criminal court and after initial paperwork related to these cases has been served, attorneys for the parties involved must engage in a process known as “discovery.” As described by the American Bar Association, discovery “is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial. Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented. It’s designed to prevent “trial by ambush,” where one side doesn’t learn of the other side’s evidence or witnesses until the trial, when there’s no time to obtain answering evidence.”
There are several tools and resources that lawyers generally use when approaching the discovery process. For example, many attorneys will use subpoenas to compel other parties involved to produce documents and other records for inspection. One of the most consequential and commonly used discovery tools is the deposition process. If you are thinking about filing a personal injury case against others who have caused you or a loved one injury, you’ll want to understand deposition basics so that you’ll know what to expect if you’re called upon to participate in this process.
What Is a Deposition?
A deposition is a statement, taken outside of the courtroom setting, that is obtained while the individual submitting to questioning is placed under oath. Depositions may be submitted into evidence in the form of an audio/video recording, a written transcript of the session, or both. Most of the time, when depositions are taken, attorneys for all interested parties are present during the oral deposition process.
Like other forms of discovery – such as document requests – depositions exist so that all sides involved in litigation are empowered to have a strong understanding of what will be argued at trial. Sometimes, depositions serve as a sort of “preview” for witness testimony that will be called upon during the trial phase of litigation. Other times, depositions can serve as witness testimony for those who cannot – for whatever reason – appear in a trial setting.
Preparing for an Effective Deposition Session
The most important thing you’ll want to keep in mind when preparing to participate in the deposition process is that, because you are under oath, any inconsistencies, half-truths, or outright falsehoods that you utter during a deposition have the power to undermine (at best) or destroy (at worst) the case in which you have invested so much time and energy. As a result, you’ll want to work with your attorney to prepare to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” during your deposition, without phrasing things in such a way that the outcome of your case could become compromised. It is also important to note that lying under oath is a crime.
Chances are good that when you are giving your deposition, you’ll be questioned by attorneys representing others affected by the case you have filed. It is important to come prepared to remain calm, to remain focused, and not to rise to any “bait” that an opposing attorney may use in an attempt to scatter your focus or otherwise trip you up. Your attorney should be able to prepare you for such tricks effectively, so there is no need to worry… only to prepare and remain focused once you’re in session.
As many depositions are now recorded on video equipment, it is important to dress and behave with intention when you arrive for your deposition. The video recording of your deposition may be played back for the jury if your case makes it to trial before a settlement has been reached. As you want to make the most favorable impression possible upon the jury, it is important to dress respectfully, to speak clearly, to avoid distracting behaviors (such as jiggling your leg or darting your eyes around the room), and to appear to take the process as seriously as possible.
If you have any questions about how to present yourself “in your best light” during a deposition, don’t hesitate to ask your attorney. Experienced attorneys have seen it all and will know what choices will benefit you and your case and which ones absolutely won’t.
Sometimes, a process involving “interrogatories” accompanies the deposition process. Interrogatories are written questions submitted by one lawyer to others involved in the case. Those who are subject to these written questions are permitted a specific window of time in which to respond to the queries posed. If you are required to fill out written questions as part of the deposition process, your attorney will help to ensure that you do so effectively and in ways that support the overarching goals of your case.
If you have been injured as a result of another’s intentionally dangerous, negligent, or reckless behavior, know that you have options under the law. Because California honors a “pure comparative negligence” approach to the rights of injury victims, you may be able to hold others financially responsible for the harm that they have caused, even if you were partially to blame for the circumstances that led to your injuries. As a result, you should refrain from making any assumptions about the strengths or weaknesses of your legal situation until you’ve spoken with an experienced attorney from our team.
Our firm believes that everyone has a right to understand the protections that the law affords them. Therefore, we offer free, risk-free consultations to injury victims and the surviving loved ones of victims who have succumbed to fatal injuries. Once we have evaluated your legal situation, we’ll provide you with our objective assessment of your options. If you choose to pursue legal action, we will do our utmost to not only prepare you to fight for your rights effectively, but to also build the strongest possible case on your behalf. We look forward to speaking with you.