Posted in Personal Injury on September 23, 2018
Many court cases will require depositions of key witnesses during the discovery process. A deposition refers to an official interview of a witness to learn more about the case. In general, depositions involve one party interviewing the other party’s witnesses to find out what they know. If you get called into a deposition, you may request the presence of your attorney. Once you complete the deposition process, here’s what happens next.
Depositions serve two main purposes: to find out what a witness knows and to preserve the witness’s testimony until it’s time for the trial. With a deposition, a witness’s full account will be on record, protected from the effects of time on memory. Even if the trial doesn’t happen for a few more years, the original depositions will preserve a witness’s statements while the issue is still fresh in mind.
A deposition requires sworn and recorded testimony by the witness, who will be under oath. A court reporter will be present during the deposition interview typing everything that is said on a stenography device. The device allows the reporter to quickly transcribe everything that the attorneys and witnesses are saying in a form of shorthand. The reporter will later go back and transcribe the shorthand into regular English – eventually producing a transcript of the entire deposition.
The deposition transcript will land in the hands of all parties involved on a case. This includes you, your personal injury lawyer, and the lawyer for the other side. Everyone will have an opportunity to review the transcript and request revisions of any errors or inconsistencies. Most lawyers will use special software to easily review depositions and transcripts. Speak with your lawyer if you believe the court reporter misquoted you on your transcript. Your attorney may order additional depositions of other people if your deposition has any issues or gaps.
After depositions are complete, your lawyer will update or change your strategy going forward as needed, based on the information gleaned from the key witness interviews. This is why it’s important to hire an attorney, to help you complete depositions and use the information to your advantage. If you need to follow up with any council members after your deposition (i.e., to provide documentation), your personal injury attorney can help you with this as well. If someone’s deposition creates a significant change in your case, you will need to consult with your attorney about what to do next.
Follow-ups are relatively common after initial depositions. Additional follow-up might be necessary if a deposition reveals new or previously unknown information about a case. An attorney may need to look into the information further and possibly call other witnesses to depose as well. Only then can the lawsuit proceed. For this reason, the discovery phase can last weeks or months before the trial can continue.
Once the discovery phase has completely ended, case litigation can continue. Depositions might have provided just the right information to allow the case to reach a successful settlement and end there. Most personal injury claims, for example, can reach settlements without the parties needing to take the case to court. Settlements with experienced negotiators can get you the results you want without the time, money, or effort of a full-blown trial.
If the depositions are not the key to a settlement, the case will continue to trial. Trials can be beneficial to plaintiffs in their own ways. If a witness cannot appear in trial for any reason, his or her deposition may serve as a substitute. Depositions are important parts of the claims process, but they are often only the beginning of a case. Work with an attorney to learn more about the role depositions might play in your claim.