Depositions are a part of any lawsuit. In San Antonio, the lawyers here are very quick to request and get a deposition of all parties in a lawsuit. A deposition is just a questioning under oath with lawyers present in the simplest terms. In this episode, we discuss what a deposition is and why it is part of the process.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names, and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real and these are the cases we handle on a day to day basis.
Justin Hill: We've been talking about the different parts of the case. Whenever somebody signs up with our office, we try to set their expectations, explained to them the process, and try to guide their understanding of what's going to happen so that they're not surprised when certain things do happen. They're not surprised by the timeline by which they happen. They understand how many different things are normal in this process. That at first glance to somebody who's never done it before, it might be scary.
We've talked about the discovery process, which comes after filing a lawsuit and the other side answers to that lawsuit. Then the law allows a period of what's called discovery. Discovery is an opportunity for both sides to develop facts to investigate the claim, to get information from the other side that will help them understand what the case is and prepare for trial. One of the elements of discovery is depositions. Depositions are a very normal part of any lawsuit. It's very rare we have cases in which depositions do not occur once a lawsuit is filed.
For the most part in a normal car wreck case, that usually just means the deposition of the plaintiff and the defendant and may be an investigating officer and maybe a medical doctor or provider. On the other end in a very complex product liability commercial bus case I had early in my career, that case had over a hundred depositions of witnesses and experts and all different people involved from the liability and the damages side of the case on both sides. The depositions are a very normal part of the process, and the deposition is a chance for each side to ask questions of another.
It could be the plaintiff's asking questions of the defendants, the defendant asking questions of the plaintiff or both sides asking questions of investigating officers, eyewitnesses, medical providers. It's a chance to ask questions under oath. It's a chance to discover facts about your case, to investigate lingering questions that either side may have about the case. It's a chance to prepare for trial, know what will be said at trial, and to understand the risk. Deposition testimony in Texas can be used in trial the same way someone was sitting on the stand.
Their trial or deposition transcript can be used in the trial, their video can be played in the trial. Now, I always tell my clients whenever they're getting ready for a deposition, for one to relax, the deposition is not a very high pressure or formal. For the most part, it's usually done in an office setting, in a conference room, for example. There will be attorneys from all the parties there. Sometimes that just means an attorney from each side because there are only two parties in a case or when there's 10, there might be 10 lawyers.
There'll be a court reporter there, typing everything down that they then put into a booklet, a transcript of the deposition. Sometimes there's a videographer and the videographers videoing the deposition, and that video can be played in trial. Depositions are informal. Generally, they're not high pressure and generally, people don't get out of control. For the most part, they're a slow methodic question-answer setting. The lawyer asking the questions or ask their question and the witness will then answer their question and back and forth.
For the most part, people have to stay calm and reserved in depositions because there are consequences if people lose their tempers. Depositions can be used in a trial for multiple things. Oftentimes, the witness being deposed will be at trial. For example, the plaintiff is going to be at their own trial. In those instances, the depositions are not normally played unless the witness changes their answer. In those instances, the depositions can be used to impeach or point out how the witnesses either being dishonest or change their answer, but in a way to call their character into question.
Depositions are one of the most common things that happen in a lawsuit, and the testimony for the most part in depositions is way more valuable in most cases than what is received in paper discovery. In our next episode, we'll talk about how to prepare for a deposition, but in this episode, we just wanted to discuss what a deposition is, generally, how it is used, and how it is an integral part of the discovery process.