Most of the lawsuits that I file on behalf of accident and injury victims involve depositions. Since most people know little or nothing about depositions, today’s question is . . .
What is a deposition?
Generally, depositions are part of the pretrial “discovery” phase of a lawsuit where each side can learn – discover – information about an opponent’s case. Other common discovery methods are written questions (Interrogatories) and requests for production of documents.
More specifically, depositions are face-to-face question-and-answer sessions. They usually occur in the office of the lawyer who scheduled the deposition or in some public meeting room.
Parties to legal cases can require other parties, or witnesses, to appear for questioning. And, they can require witnesses to produce documents.
Normally, the parties to the case, their lawyers and a reporter are present. So is the witness, if a non-party. If it is a videotape deposition, a videographer is present.
Deposition witnesses testify under the penalties of perjury.
In Maryland, questioners have wide latitude. They can seek not only relevant information that tends to prove or disprove some issue in the case but also information that “could possibly lead” to relevant and admissible evidence.
The lawyer for the witness, if there is one, can object to improper questions. Normally, these objections are noted on the record of the deposition and are decided later by a judge but, occasionally, a deposition is suspended to get an immediate ruling on an objection from a judge.
The result of a deposition is a typed book of questions and answers, a verbatim transcript of all that was said at the deposition and, perhaps, a videotape of the session.
Parties can read favorable parts of an opponent’s deposition into evidence at trial and a witness who testifies in court inconsistently with earlier deposition testimony can be confronted with the prior inconsistent deposition testimony.
Depositions are a critical part of the litigation process. Many cases have been won or lost at depositions.
To learn more details, read this article about depositions. You can also read my tips for deposition witnesses. And, if you are interested, you can read this article about the typical deposition questions in a car accident case.
**This article is designed to provide helpful information that can be read within 2 minutes. It is neither a full explanation of this subject nor legal advice. To learn more, contact me or another lawyer.