We at Montes Law Group, PC are trial lawyers. We hold 3 Board Certifications between us, which means all of our attorneys have tried numerous cases to a jury, passed a rigorous test, and received the praise of fellow colleagues and judges we have practiced in front of.
A deposition is the best way to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both your case, as well as your opponent’s case. It also enables you to gauge your adversary. Often, an adversary who conducts himself poorly at deposition, will exhibit the same poor behavior at trial.
Other discovery devices are available which will help gather information and evidence about your case, such as written discovery, comprised of interrogatories, requests for production of documents and things, and requests for admission, none is so valuable as the deposition.
Oral depositions give you the chance to realize the nature and degree of the deponent’s knowledge. Depositions should always be taken with trial in mind, as though a jury were present. Taking a witness’ deposition will serve to put you on notice of the testimony which can be expected at trial. On occasion, a deponent will be unavailable to testify at trial, and the use of a deposition will effectively preserve that testimony and be useful at trial. Similarly, exhibits which have been marked at deposition, along with transcript testimony, are very effective cross-examination devices.
DEPOSITIONS MAY LEAD TO THE DISCOVERY OF OTHER EVIDENCE
When properly used, a deposition may identify other witnesses. Very often, a party-opponent will identify one or more witnesses, which may, in turn, lead to further investigation and/or deposition. Occasionally a witness might identify another witness in an effort to exculpate himself. This may ultimately provide you with excellent impeachment material. If the newly discovered witness has material information, you will want to consider taking his deposition. Theoretically, it is to your advantage to schedule and take depositions as soon as possible. It allows you to question witnesses who may later become unavailable or disappear. Furthermore, witnesses who are examined closer in time to when the event took place are more likely to have a fresher recollection.
In practice, however, most depositions are taken long after the event giving rise to the lawsuit took place. In negligence cases such as the cases we champion, this can be two years and longer.
DEPOSITIONS ARE THE MOST SPONTANEOUS DISCOVERY DEVICES
A lot can happen in a deposition. I have had witnesses say things in depositions that have helped the case tremendously, and the opposite can sometimes also happen. The scope of inquiry in a deposition is extremely broad in Texas, and is not confined necessarily by the pleadings. Examination in a deposition may cover any area within the subject matter of the lawsuit, including other parties, witnesses, defenses, damages, or something that may lead to the discovery of other evidence that may be relevant. The spontaneity of oral depositions gives the examining attorney the opportunity to scrutinize those areas where the facts are unknown. IT may also reveal factual aspects which appear to be more important than originally expected.
DEPOSITIONS ARE A POTENTIAL SETTLEMENT TOOL
There is no discovery tool more important than a deposition. We strive to settle all of our clients’ cases before we go to trial. We try cases only where the defendants and their team of lawyers and insurance companies take the position of delay, deny and defend. We always attempt to work out a fair, just, and equitable settlement prior to taking the case to a jury, because that is generally what is best for all parties involved. Unfortunately, the defendants, their insurance companies, and the insurance company lawyers do not always agree with that. Oftentimes, we are up against insurance company-hired defense lawyers who are on the “billable hour” and therefore must bill a certain amount of hours, to make their firm money, prior to talking settlement. Sometimes, we are up against defense lawyers who actually work for the insurance companies, what are called “in-house lawyers” so the insurance companies have less incentive to settle cases, as they are not paying an attorney by the hour.
Depositions are tools to assist in settling your case, as generally speaking, 90% of all cases are settled prior to going to trial, and, most often, cases are settled after depositions are taken. Depositions give us and our adversaries an opportunity to evaluate the testimony and credibility of given witnesses, and this testimony will be preserved by the record. Negligence cases in particular lend additional importance to the issue of credibility, as quite often, the parties themselves are the only witnesses to the occurrence.
DEPOSITIONS: NOT THE SAME AS WHAT YOU SEE ON T.V.
Many people think that all legal procedures occur as they did on L.A. Law, Law and Order or Alley McBeal. This is not the case. The reality is that depositions are one-sided and while a judge may be called upon to settle disputes arising at a deposition the judge is not present at the deposition. A deposition is more broad that a trial. At deposition, anything that may lead to relevant evidence in questionable. You can be reassured, however, that lawyers do object to questions that are totally out of bounds or irrelevant, as they should. A deposition should never be used by an attorney to annoy, harass, insult, or attack. If objections are made in the deposition, the party must still provide an answer, unless their own lawyer instructs them not to answer the question. Those issues are ruled upon by the judge at a later time for inclusion or exclusion in the trial of the case, or to make other evidentiary rulings.
The most important thing to keep in mind at a deposition is to tell the truth. The truth is on your side, so there is nothing to be afraid of. Telling the truth, telling your story, allows the other side to evaluate you as a witness, evaluate your case, the strengths of your case, and report back to their boss, the insurance company, on those issues.
If you need help because you or a loved one has been hurt, suffered harms and losses, or if you have lost a loved one due to negligence, call us. We have been working for people like this for years, and we will continue to work exclusively for people, not insurance companies. We are Board Certified specialists in Personal Injury Trial Law, by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We know how to advance your rights, and protect your rights. Call us today. Experience. Justice. Results. We are here to help.