Any time an individual decides to pursue a legal claim, he or she needs to be prepared with a plan to show the legal elements necessary in order to win their case. In most cases, a significant part of this plan is merely tracking down evidence and witnesses, then crafting compelling legal arguments. Thorough preparation is key, as surprises in the legal world are not a good thing. There are very specific things a plaintiff can do, though, to ensure that he or she avoids unexpected surprises when pursuing a wrongful death or personal injury claim.
One of the best ways to do this is to take depositions. Depositions are formal questionings of individuals who may be called as witnesses at trial. The process plays out similar to a trial in that witnesses are sworn in, questions are asked, and objections are made. However, there is no judge in the room, so even when objections are raised, a witness must still respond. Depositions are recorded, and transcripts are made available to the attorneys.
Why is a deposition helpful? First, it allows one side to discover what the other side knows. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the case, thereby helping the parties better craft their cases. Second, a deposition locks a witness into testimony. If a witness strays from his or her deposition testimony during a trial, then a skilled attorney can use the deposition to impeach the witness. This tactic can draw out the truth and/or damage the witness's credibility.
Since depositions can have such a profound impact on a case, they need to be handled with skill. By discussing the matter with an experienced wrongful death or personal injury attorney, a plaintiff may be able to obtain a better sense of his or her case and how best to argue his or her position. Hopefully the use of depositions and other discovery tools can better position an individual to either negotiate or litigate for the compensation he or she deserves in the aftermath of a tragic incident.