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Posted in Videos on August 23, 2017   |  by Gary Burger

What are Depositions and How are They Used in Litigating Cases

What are Depositions

One of the things we do in litigation and in working a case up to trial is depositions, and I have a number of videos that I use for my clients to prepare for depositions, but just a little bit on depositions. There’s a rule of civil procedure that affords the parties to take depositions. You can take depositions of the opposing party, the plaintiff or defendant, their relatives or friends that have relevant evidence about the case. You can take depositions of witnesses. You can take depositions of outside companies that either have records or information important to your case. You can take depositions of experts. Sometimes we hire experts on liability to prove how or why a defendant was negligent.

Last week I did a deposition. I’ve produced an accident reconstruction. It’s in a truck crash case, and he talked about what he saw about the speeds and the forces involved and the errors done by the truck driver. You can take depositions of medical doctors where they come in and say, “I treated this client. They have these injuries. They were caused by this car crash or this slip and fall, and here’s what my diagnosis is, my prognosis. Here’s their past medical, here’s their future medical,” and then we go into detail sometimes with diagrams and other things to try to show the jury, take to the jury, convey to the jury the types of injuries that our client sustained.

Sometimes you have depositions of experts about economic damages or other types of things. Other kinds of cases can have other kinds of experts, but that’s what the types of depositions you’re taking. Definitely when depositions occur, they go question, answer, question, answer, where the lawyer asks the question and the deponent answers the question. The lawyer waits till the deponent’s done with their answer, and the deponent gives or the witness gives the lawyer the same courtesy, and you basically go through questions to try to elicit evidence that is relevant at trial.

If you go too far a field or you’re not courteous to the witness, that can draw objections from the other side. They may object that you’re asking irrelevant questions or you’ve already asked it once. There are a whole host of objections. The same type of objections you would make at trial, you can make at a deposition to preserve your record, and all this is taken down by a court reporter who takes down the questions and the answer. And those depositions can go on for some time. The more experience you have with cases usually, the shorter your depositions are. I tried to hone in on the issues I need to inquire about and focus on that and not waste anybody’s time, and I certainly want to honor the time of the witness and the other lawyers as well.

And, you also want to… You can use documents. Witnesses can be shown documents and ask to interpret documents at depositions, and a witness usually wants to prepare for the deposition and think of deposition, think about the questions that are going to be asked, work with their lawyer to prepare, to get focused on the types of questions and what appropriate answers are to get the accurate information, know what documents are going to be looked at during the case and not be surprised, and that witnesses don’t have to guess, but you can also often ask for the best guess of the witness. You may not know exactly how many feet between you and the truck when you first saw it come through the red light, but you can also give your best estimate of that as well.

Sometimes lawyers try to be too pushy, too aggressive in depositions. They think they can influence answers. That’s inappropriate. Sometimes the defense lawyer thinks by objecting, they’re trying to answer the question for their witness. That’s an effective tactic; that’s equally inappropriate as well.

Those are just some of the things about deposition. There are entire courses taught about those, but I wanted to do a short video on depositions just to orient folks on that. So, I’m Gary Burger. If you have any more questions about that, I’m at 314-542-2222. Thank you.