Depositions: An Overview

Let’s talk about what a deposition is and why it is important.  (And then be sure to read Hoffer & Sheremet’s Top 5 Deposition Tips!) Any law firm can offer you an overview of what a deposition is like in medical and legal malpractice cases. However, we’ll go into detail and take the time to describe the most common medical and legal malpractice deposition questions and help you get ahead of the deposition process. Legal and medical malpractice cases require you to come fully prepared for answering questions.

A deposition is defined as “the taking and recording of testimony of a witness under oath before a court reporter in a place away from the courtroom before trial.” Do not be fooled by this rather bland definition; depositions are one, if not the,most important aspect of the litigation process. This is where the attorneys and parties will learn important facts, gain concessions, and judge the credibility of each witness. It sets the stage for settlement discussions and for trial.

Typically, in medical malpractice and other personal injury actions, the following key players are deposed:

  • Plaintiff/injured person
  • ​Family members, especially if the injured person is a minor or deceased
  • ​Plaintiff’s treating physicians
  • ​Individual defendants who have been named in the lawsuit (i.e. physician)
  • ​Other individuals who may have been present during the events in question (such as nurses who participated in the care provided that is at issue in the lawsuit)

In legal malpractice cases, the plaintiff is deposed, the negligent attorney, any subsequent attorneys or other fact witnesses, and expert witnesses.

Depositions usually begin shortly after the first round of written discovery has been exchanged. This gives the attorneys and parties an opportunity to first review important documents and records. Depositions can be taken at any time during the discovery period, usually right up until case evaluation.

The number of depositions taken during litigation depends on the complexity of the case; the more complex the litigation, the more experts and fact witnesses are involved.  In very complex litigation, such as birth injury, it is not uncommon to see twenty or more depositions.

The plaintiff is often deposed first.  Typically, the format of your deposition will include the following topics:

  • Background information about you such as your employment, family and medical history.
  • Documents and records that you reviewed in preparation for your deposition.
  • Diaries, notes, or online posts you have written.
  • Your memory of the events that are relevant to the medical or legal malpractice.
  • Names of important witnesses. These may include family members who are familiar with your current medical condition, who may have been present during the events, or with whom you discussed the events.
  • Description of the injuries you suffered as a result of the events in question, and whether the injuries resolved or if you have been told your injuries will continue into the future.
  • Monetary damages you suffered, including out-of-pocket medical expenses, replacement services for household chores and lost wages.
  • Non-economic damages you suffered, including pain and suffering, humiliation, and embarrassment.

We cannot tell you what to say, but prior to your deposition, we will spend a considerable amount of time helping you prepare by reviewing documents, talking about what happened, and understanding the questions and practicing the answers. The deposition preparation and the deposition will usually take place in Hoffer & Sheremet’s office.

When it is time for your deposition, we will work with you to find a date and time that fits within your work and home schedule.  The total time of your deposition will depend on several variables, including the complexity of the case and the deposition taking style of opposing counsel.  Expect to set aside an entire day.

It is likely that your deposition will be the first time you give testimony under oath. This experience is very different than what many people equate giving testimony with – – a courtroom drama like A Few Good Men! Although giving a deposition will likely not be nearly so intense, do not be fooled by the informal setting. Before the first question is asked, you will be placed under oath by the court reporter. As this can be intimidating to some, it is a normal course of action to take an oath before stating your case and answering questions about the malpractice actions. Then the questions begin from the opposing attorney. A deposition can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire day. We will have a good idea of the length of time beforehand based on the complexity of the case and the attorney asking the questions.

Now that you have an understanding of what a deposition is, read Hoffer &  Sheremet’s top 5 deposition tips!

We will spend as much time with you as you need to feel as comfortable as possible during your deposition.  If you would like more information on how our medical malpractice and legal malpractice lawyers work with you to prepare, call us at 616.278.0888email us, or complete our free consultation request form.