During a lawsuit, each side to the lawsuit has the right to “discovery.” That means, each side can “discover” more about the opposing party’s position by obtaining documents, asking written questions, etc. There are definite formalities to the process which befuddle most members of the public. It often appears to be more “form over substance” but that’s the way the system is designed. It also takes a long time to occur. In California, most lawsuits last at least one year. Keep in mind a lawsuit is usually only filed if a case is unable to resolve prior to litigation. When you file a lawsuit, you essentially start over again.
During a lawsuit, a “deposition” (or several) may be taken as part of the “discovery” process. You’ve certainly seen them on television – a lawyer is asking questions of a witness and there are other lawyers in the room along with a court reporter writing everything down on a cool nifty machine as fast as possible. Usually, on TV, there is high drama with most of the attorneys sparring and yelling at each other. Some add fist-pounding! Truth is most depositions are boring events with questions being asked from every conceivable angle. Sometimes clients have a hard time understanding why the questions are so detailed. Sometimes the truth is indeed in the details, but the attorneys are trying to learn more about what a witness might say in court….and not just WHAT they might say, but HOW they say it. If an attorney is taking your deposition, they are not only evaluating what you are saying but also your witness potential. They are asking themselves, “How well would this person testify before a jury? How likable are they? How believable are they? How much conviction does this person have? Do they keep changing their story? Do they appear to be honest?” Let’s face it, juries vote for people they like – just like anything else in life. In my career as an attorney, I firmly believe the deposition is the most important part of the “discovery” process. In many cases, a good deposition (or a bad one) can change the course of a case. Make sure you prepare for your deposition by discussing what to expect with your lawyer.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,