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Depositions: Uses and The Need For Preparation

Depositions are used by both sides in the litigation process to gather information about a pending case. A deposition is part of the formal discovery process by which the opposing side or both sides are given the opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses under oath. A deposition transcript can be used for many purposes including: cross-examination at trial, in lieu of testimony during a trial or other proceeding, as an admission of party, as support for or against a motion for summary judgment. The witness or deponent generally falls into one of three categories: party, fact witness (lay and professional), and expert witness.

Let’s assume you are a party to the litigation. This means you are either a plaintiff or in most cases the defendant. Let’s further assume the case involves some form of medical malpractice or a civil rights claim (42 USC § 1983) involving deliberate indifference. As a healthcare professional you will generally either be a party to the litigation or one of the treating professionals. In either case, counsel wants to narrow down your testimony and determine what if any involvement you had with the case. The big question is, What do I need to do to be prepared for the deposition?

Several things are critical to every deposition:

  1. A deposition is a sworn statement.
  2. Telling the truth is extremely important.
  3. You should never speculate during a deposition.
  4. There are no “do over’s”. Once you make the statement on the record it remains forever.
  5. Most depositions are very fact intense; therefore, knowing the medical record and your involvement is extremely important.
  6. You must be prepared for your deposition. This means you must know the medical record, your specific involvement, the implications of your involvement, and you must be ready to answer the anticipated questions.

There is no substitute for deposition preparation!

At Chapman Law Group we generally meet with our clients at least three times prior to the deposition.

  1. The first meeting covers your general involvement with the case and occurs very early in the process. We follow up this meeting with all necessary records to help assist you in becoming intimately familiar with the facts of the case. As discovery progresses we generally talk several times by phone.
  2. The second meeting occurs about 2 to 3 weeks before your deposition. At this meeting we go over all of the relevant records and thoroughly discuss your involvement. We also discuss the prior testimony or expected testimony of experts and what the implications may be to your involvement with the case. We also do some role playing and begin to get you comfortable with the deposition process of being cross-examined under oath. Sometimes we videotape this interaction and use the tape to further assist you in becoming comfortable with the process. The videotape is erased immediately following the meeting.
  3. The third meeting generally occurs 1 to 2 weeks before the deposition. At this meeting we again go over the record, prior testimony or expected testimony of other treaters or experts, and we continue role playing. The goal is help you become comfortable with the facts, your involvement, and ensure you are able to answer difficult questions regarding your involvement. Often parts of the process are videotaped. The videotape is erased following the meeting.

During the deposition a member of Chapman Law Group will be with you. If the opposing counsel asks inappropriate questions we will object on your behalf. At times we may instruct you not to answer the question. It is important to know that Chapman Law Group will be with you at every stage of the process to ensure the questioning is fair, within the boundaries of the law, and that you are given an opportunity to explain your answers.

If you are facing a deposition for any reason and do not have counsel, please feel free to call Chapman Law Group. Remember, the deposition is your sworn statement and being prepared is a joint responsibility between you and your counsel.