An Overview of The Role Depositions Play in Modern Personal Injury Cases
In TV legal dramas, the magic happens in the courtroom. A witness testifies on the stand, and then the other side's lawyer flamboyantly produces a picture or a document that proves the witness was lying the whole time.
Cue the murmuring from the courtroom audience, the judge bangs the gavel to restore order, and the jurors exchange knowing glances with each other. However, the courtroom is not the only place where litigants can secure live testimony of witnesses and the parties themselves.
Instead, in a "deposition," witnesses may be placed under oath by a court reporter and videotaped. This testimony may be later introduced in court, just like the person was there.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What exactly is a deposition?
- How does the deposition process work in a Texas personal injury case?
- What does it mean when a witness is deposed?
Lawyers depose witnesses to find out what they know.
The point of discovery is to uncover the truth. Before a deposition starts, the witness is sworn in by a court reporter just like he or she would be in a courtroom. Then the lawyers take turns asking the witness questions. Once sworn in and directed to answer questions, the witness cannot refuse to answer almost anything.
Let's say the witness was present near a car accident and claimed that the plaintiff ran a red light. The plaintiff's lawyer will likely ask her to begin by explaining exactly what she thinks she saw. Then, the plaintiff's lawyer will ask her questions like:
- "Exactly where were you standing?"
- "Have you had any vision problems? Do you wear glasses or contacts, and if so, were you wearing them then?"
- "Do you know either the plaintiff or the defendant in this case?"
Let's break these questions down to explain why they're being asked. Asking the witness where she was standing, if she can remember, could help prove that she was present and was not in a spot where she could actually see where the light was. The questions about vision and eyewear could reveal that the witness's eyesight was such that she's not reliable---this isn't because the plaintiff wants to make her out to be a liar, but to cast doubt on her claims that she saw what she thinks she saw.
Lastly, the question about knowing anyone related to the case could help expose bias. For example, if she's the sister of the defendant driver, then a jury might be less inclined to believe her story.
Rarely do depositions expose "smoking guns." Most of the time, witnesses don't reveal anything earth-shattering like an admission that they've been lying the whole time about what they saw or that they got paid to appear that day. But the point is to lock down exactly what they know, what they think they know, and any information that could be used to bolster or discredit them later.
Your lawyer's job is to protect you.
As a plaintiff in a personal injury case, you will very likely be deposed yourself. The defense attorney is allowed to ask you questions about how the accident occurred, what damages you claim you received, and how you're coping now. Many of our clients express deep anxiety about being placed under oath and subjected to this process. What you need is a tough, experienced attorney on your side who will keep the defense lawyer in line and only allow appropriate questions to be asked.
The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have decades of defending their clients in depositions, and we know that victims need 3 things: 1) good preparation by the attorney; 2) accurate advice about how to answer questions; and 3) feeling protected by their attorney. That's our job, and we do it well.
If you've been hurt, call the Texas personal injury attorneys at Grossman Law Offices today at (855) 326-0000.
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