Depositions are one of the most powerful aspects in the medical malpractice litigation process, and both the plaintiff and the defendant sides learn important facts related to the case. Typically, depositions may run into hundreds of pages and attorneys request deposition summary services. Deposition summaries give them a concise understanding of the various important aspects of the case. A medical review company assisting medical malpractice attorneys provides deposition summaries that are useful for attorneys to analyze key points, prepare witnesses, and assess damages. These are used effectively when preparing for trial.
When Are Depositions Conducted?
Depositions usually begin shortly after the first round of written discovery is exchanged between the parties. The attorneys and parties involved review all important documents and records. Depositions can be taken during the discovery period, usually even up until case evaluation. The number of depositions taken is based on how complex the case is. If the case is highly complex, the more will be the number of witnesses and experts involved and the number of depositions may be up to twenty or more.
Who All Are Deposed in a Medical Malpractice Case?
- The plaintiff or injured person
- The treating physicians
- Family members
- Individual defendants, i.e. physicians, named in the lawsuit
- Nurses and other healthcare providers who may have been present during the particular medical event
- Expert witnesses retained on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant
Where Do Depositions Take Place?
Depositions usually take place in law offices, the court reporter’s office, or in the conference rooms of a hotel. In any such location a court reporter will be present to transcribe the entire conversation on the record. Sometimes, the deposition may also be videotaped. A judge and jury are not present during a deposition; they come into the picture only if the case proceeds to trial. Only the attorneys, the court reporter, and the deposed are present at the deposition.
Here are the steps involved in the deposition process.
- The court reporter administers an oath to the witness, requiring him/her to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
- Questions are asked related to the defendant physician’s credentials, with focus on his/her education, training and credentialing.
- The questions asked are generally much broader than the questions asked in court. The physician accused of medical malpractice is usually asked questions about a wide range of details related to the case.
- Following the questioning by the plaintiff’s attorney, defense attorneys follow with cross examination. In this, they ask their clients to elaborate statements made earlier, or try to get testimony to provide more comprehensive information.
- The plaintiff attorney may then ask redirect questions, followed by the defense asking more questions.
The main purpose of a witness deposition is to determine what the witness knows. Neither side wants any last-minute surprises in court. Besides this, a deposition helps preserve the witness’ testimony. Even if the witness is not available during the trial, the deposition can be used.
The Value of Depositions and Their Summaries
As a form of discovery, depositions help attorneys understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case. Being able to see the witness testifying in person is advantageous because the attorney can study their appearance, mannerisms and make a more accurate decision about the witness’ credibility.
A deposition can range from 30 minutes to 1 week, based on the nature of the case and the witness’ knowledge. The witness must be very careful when deposing because he/she is testifying under oath and therefore providing false statements can have serious consequences, both civil and criminal. Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure lays out the rules governing depositions. Some states also have procedural guidelines regarding depositions. Rule 30 requires that the deponents are notified in writing, and be informed regarding the method of recording. It limits the number of depositions that each side may conduct as well as how long a deposition may last. Typically, the outer limit of the time allowed each day for each deponent is no more than seven hours.
The Deposition Summary Process
A company providing medical record review for medical malpractice cases prepares deposition summaries that are very useful for attorneys handling such lawsuits.
- The important and relevant facts are carefully extracted from the witness’ deposition testimony.
- All dates, figures, names, exhibits and other details are accurately documented.
- Important events and actions are highlighted.
- Superfluous information is removed.
- The subject matter is clearly organized and presented in a clearly comprehensible format.
- The deposition summary prepared is proofread and quality assured.
Depositions and deposition summaries are key tools for attorneys handling medical malpractice cases. They bring clarity to the case and help attorneys efficiently prepare their case. The service of a medical review company would prove invaluable in medical malpractice litigation.