Depositions are really the best way to get information in a civil case. There are interrogatories and other written responses that begin to tell me about a case, but they need to be explained by a live person. Further, most of my cases are not document dependent.
Below is a link to a routine deposition I took in a motorcycle crash case that recently resolved. I share this for you to see that these are dry proceedings that are important to the lawyers, but not particularly exciting. They are certainly unlike anything you see on TV or in the movies. This deposition was of a police officer who was the first responder to a motorcycle crash, where my client hit a pothole off of the Schuylkill Expressway at Exit 346C Vare Avenue. He was ejected from his motorcycle and died the following day.
Here, there were several important points to be made. First, when my client was ejected, he hit a bollard or metal post that was illegally placed by the car dealership where he landed. My claim in the case required me to prove that the flying motorcyclist hit the bollard. Without that fact, I would not have a case that the dealership did something wrong that caused harm. I knew that there was a small spot of blood on one bollard and the police officer confirmed that it was fresh and from my client.
Another important point was proving pain and suffering, where there were only a few hours between the crash and his death. There was not going to be any testimony from the client as he had passed, so the evidence of pain and suffering in that interim period had to be reconstructed. One way to handle this problem is through expert testimony. I had retained a specialist in critical care/ICU medicine to talk about all of the pain that a trauma patient experiences prior to death.
But, the best testimony came from the responding police officer, who was clear that my client was moaning in pain, tried to sit up, and was clearly in distress. I could not have anticipated exactly what the officer was going to say, but his testimony was powerful and undisputed. My client was not unconscious and was suffering. So, while it was somewhat gruesome testimony, it was done in a professional manner and represented the client and his family in an effective manner. Every case is different, but for this case, this was important testimony.
Often, even though there are no fireworks, the lawyers see important facts unfolding in deposition testimony. Here, the officer’s testimony on those two points, the blood and the pain were very important and would have told a jury everything that they needed to know about what my client went through before his death.