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Archive for the ‘Going To Court’ Category

Depositions 101

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

If you’ve been asked to appear at a law office in order to give a deposition, you may not understand exactly what the lawyers or court are asking of you. The law can be a difficult thing to understand, with a great many large words that are difficult to understand and convoluted language that is difficult for even an English major to comprehend. Don’t worry: a deposition is nothing that will be painful and you do not have to have a great deal of legal knowledge in order to be able to give one.

What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is, by legal definition, when you give a testimony about something you have seen or know that pertains to a specific court case. Depositions are always taken away from a court and are used as a way for the lawyers to figure out how to win their case. If, for instance, you saw a co-worker get injured on the job, you may be asked to give a deposition about the scene that you saw. If you have information that the lawyers would like to hear, they will subpoena you and you will be asked to appear in a specific place at a certain time.

The Process

When you arrive at the destination, there should be one or more lawyers as well as a court reporter. The reporter is there in order to make sure that all of the information is recorded accurately so that the lawyers can decide if what you know is something that would help their case. The court reporter may document everything using shorthand on a stenograph, or they may use a video or an audio recording. Before anything begins, you will be asked to repeat the oath that the court reporter will give you, verifying that you are telling only the truth about the situation or knowledge that you are privy to.

Once you have repeated the oath, the lawyer (or lawyers) will then ask you questions. .They may begin by asking simple questions, such as what your name, birth date, and place of employment are. You will be required to answer any questions with a verbal “yes” or “no”. Once you have been asked questions by one lawyer, you may be cross-examined by the lawyer for the opposing side, as they have the legal right to ask you questions about the situation you witnessed.

This sparring back and forth can go on for quite awhile, and depending on what type of things you know or how difficult the case is shaping up to be, you may be interviewed for quite awhile. The point of a deposition is to make sure that all of the information that you have is recorded, as a trial may be months or years away and it is vital that the information is recorded when the experience is still fresh in your mind. As long as you answer the summons to appear for questioning, you will have done your duty in the eyes of the law.


What to Do During a Deposition

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Being a part of a court case can be very nerve-racking for some people, especially if you’ve never been involved with one before. You may be sued, you may be the one doing the suing, or you may be a witness to something that transpired. If you are the witness chances are high that, at some point in time, you will be asked to give a deposition on what you saw or what you know. The basic point of a deposition is for the defense and prosecuting attorneys to get all of the information about the specific situation recorded soon after it occurred to make sure that they can represent their clients to the best of their ability. If you’ve been asked to give a deposition, there are some things that you can do in order to make sure that the entire process goes smoothly.

Arriving on Time

The first thing you need to do is to show up for your deposition. If you are asking to appear you will likely have been given a subpoena. A failure to appear for your deposition can put you in trouble with the court, which would not be wise. Not only should you appear, but you should appear on time. If you have a difficult time accommodating the schedule that the lawyers have for you, make sure you contact them and ask if you can reschedule at a more convenient time. As long as you are willing to contact them, they should be willing to work with you.

Answering Questions

A deposition is all about answering questions that are asked of you by lawyers. If you have been asked to give a deposition, you can assume that your answers are very important, so it is vital that you answer the questions the right way.

To begin with, always make sure you tell the truth. Do not ever lie. If you lie during your deposition and are caught in a lie you can be in very big trouble. Make sure you answer the question that is posed of you and only the question you’ve been asked. Some people have a tendency to ramble on, and while you may think that giving more information is good, it can actually cause huge problems in a court case.

Instead of going on and on, simply answer the questions asked of you clearly and truthfully. Never give more information than you are asked to give and keep the answers as short as you possibly can. If you would like to reply in the affirmative or the negative to a question, make sure you verbally say “yes” or “no”.
Giving a deposition should not be scary, as all that is required of you is to answer the questions you are asked truthfully. It is your legal right to speak with a lawyer before your deposition and you can also tell the person who is examining you that you have come into the deposition prepared, as you should protect yourself at all costs.


Dress to impress: what to wear to court

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Let’s face it. Everyone wants to make a good first impression. And the clothes you wear can often make or break a good impression. Much like any job interview, how you dress is equally important when going to court. In court, you will be judge on everything from your criminal history to the clothes you wear. How you choose to present yourself can directly impact the judge and jury, and the outcome of your case.

When you are getting dressed for your day in court, wear professional attire. Men should dress in a suit and tie, or in khaki’s and a nice dress shirt. Women should wear a nice business suit with either a skirt or slacks. The rule of thumb is to dress conservatively. Do not wear hats, hooded sweatshirts, pajamas, tank tops, flip flops, shorts, miniskirts, low-cut tops, pants that fall below your waistline, jeans, untied sneakers, T-shirts or anything dirty, holey or with patches. Any clothing regarding sex, violence, cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol should never be worn to a court of law. If you have any visible facial piercings, it is better to cover them up. Tattoos with naked body parts, swear words, drug or alcohol references, or violence should also be covered. Wear little jewelry as possible. A nice, modest watch will suffice.

It is generally important to be clean cut and pleasant in appearance. Get a haircut, shave and clean yourself up. Think of it as a date. Your biggest concern on a date is to impress your partner. In court, you biggest concern is to impress the judge or jury. You want the judge and jury to “like you” without having to “know you.” Presenting like the boy or girl next door is the best approach. Jurors are typically older and have a harder time attributing a crime to someone who may look like their grandson or granddaughter.

In addition to the clothes you wear, how you act can also make an impression in court. Always stand up straight when talking to the judge and look him or her directly in the eye. Lack of eye contact is often an indicator as to whether or not you are lying under oath. Speak loudly so that the judge can hear you. Answer any and all questions with “yes, sir,” or “yes, ma’am,” do not just nod your head. Do not mumble. If you are unable to hear what the judge is saying, do not respond with “huh?” Ask the judge politely if he or she can repeat the question.

Other key tips include: arriving on time for your court date, being respectful of everyone involved in the case, including lawyers, clerks, judges and witnesses, and taking responsibility for your actions. If you are guilty of the crime in question and the evidence against you is strong, there isn’t much you can do. How you dress and act in court won’t save you from having to accept the consequences of your actions.

How do I find a lawyer who is right for me?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

If you have a legal issue that needs to be resolved in a timely manner, you may need to hire a lawyer. Lawyers are specifically trained and educated on our legal system and can offer advisement and insight about your particular case that you won’t be able to find in books or on the Internet.

The easy part is finding a lawyer. You can flip open a phone book and find numerous law offices to choose from. The hard part is finding a lawyer that is “right” for you. You not only want a lawyer who is honest, reliable and accomplished, you also want one who you feel comfortable dealing with. Think carefully about the legal services you require. Many lawyers practice law for their entire lives and never even set foot in a courtroom because most of the work they do is for consultation purposes only.
One way to begin your search is to ask your friends and family for a reference to a lawyer experienced and knowledgeable in the particular field you are in need of, whether it be personal injury law, employment law, criminal law, etc. Most people tend to put a lot of trust in their friends and family, and often seek them out first for advice and recommendations regarding legal, financial and even marital issues. There are also Internet services available to help you find a lawyer. They work like Internet dating services only they match you to a lawyer based on the criteria you provide. These client-attorney matching services are free, fast and entirely confidential.

Set up a meeting with two or more lawyers to “feel” them out. Ask them how long they have been in practice. Any lawyer that has been practicing for 10 years or more will have the right amount of experience. Ask them what percentage of their practice involves the kind of case you are facing. If the answer is less than 75 percent, say “goodbye.” Discuss the minor details of your case to get a sense of whether or not they are interested. You want a lawyer who will invest time and effort into your case, and if they lack interest they will most likely lack time and effort as well. Lastly, ask them how much they charge. Most defense attorneys do not collect a penny unless you win your case.

Do not judge a lawyer by the size of his or her law firm. Size has absolutely nothing to do with how well a lawyer will represent you and handle your case. Most people tend to think that a smaller law firm means less experience. Sometimes smaller law firms can offer more personal attention.

Above all else, go with your gut and trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, in most cases it isn’t. You are hiring a lawyer to work for you, not against you. Lawyers should be hired based on their expertise. The “right” lawyer will know how to handle your case effectively, honestly and with your best interest at hand.

Finding the Right Personal Injury Attorney Means Better Chance at Success

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

When you are in search of a personal injury lawyer, just as in any other matter, you don’t want to hire the wrong person for the job. You want the right lawyer, with the right experience and the right success rate, not just the one with the loudest television commercials.

There are some things you should think about before you head off to the first lawyer’s office listed in the phone book. The first thing to do is make a list of questions and contact more than one office to narrow down your search. There are several ways to get names of lawyers you may want to consider.

· Referrals from people you know who have used a personal injury lawyer
· Referral services that list professionals and their qualifications
· Referral from other lawyers

Once you have obtained some names, you will want to call the law offices to find out more information. Some of the questions that can help you narrow your search:

· Does this lawyer charge for the initial consultation?
· Does this lawyer have a minimum amount they want to be able to sue for in order to take a case and what is that amount?
· Does this lawyer work for plaintiffs or defendants?

Once you have contacted the law offices and asked your questions, it is a good idea to narrow your list down to three lawyers that fit your needs. You can then make appointments with those three lawyers in order to help you determine if one of them is a good fit for you. This is very hard to do without a personal meeting.

When you go into the personal meeting you will need to be prepared to discuss the information you have about your case. Take everything with you pertaining to the case. That includes any of the following that you have:

· Medical Bills and Receipts
· Pictures
· Insurance Policies
· Police Reports
· Personal Notes

The lawyer will want to talk about the incident and will ask you a lot of questions about it. Be prepared to answer everything including personal questions.

You will have questions to ask as well. Some of them might be:

· Will this lawyer handle your case personally or will someone else be doing it?
· What is this lawyer’s success rate?
· How would this lawyer want to proceed with your case?

After you have met with the chosen lawyers, you may feel you have enough information to make a decision about who to hire to help you. You may simply feel more comfortable with one than with the others. You may be very impressed with the success of one in comparison to the others. No-one can really tell you what one thing to base your decision on, so don’t rush and make the decision that feels right to you based on all the information you have and on the answers you got from each lawyer when you met with them.

Gather Your Evidence Early

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

When you are going to court for a small claims suit, you will want to bring with you any evidence that you can to help illustrate your case.  Evidence can help prove your claim and failing to present such evidence might have a detrimental effect on your whole small claims suit.

If you have any signed contracts or agreements that pertain to the issue at hand, make sure you bring them along on court day.  The details that are contained in such documents often make judgment much easier to make simply due to the fact that they list out the specific responsibilities of both parties involved.  Some contracts and agreements even list out what is to happen in the case of dispute.

Another excellent type of evidence that you can bring with you to court is any receipts you have for payments made to the other party with regard to the service or goods you were to receive from them in this transaction.  Your cancelled checks are good evidence to show payments you have made as well.  In the case that the payments were to be made to you by the other party, bring any copies of payments they did make to you, if you have any such evidence. 

Copies of any bills and invoices you have presented to the other party will be helpful as well.  If your case involves money owed to the other party, you will want to bring any bills and invoices you have received, whether they are correct or not.  These are extremely helpful to the judge in assessing how this case evolved to the point it now sits.

If your case involves goods that are easily brought to court, you should bring them.  Damaged items and defective items that are a crucial part of the case should always be presented unless they are too large or dangerous to bring into the courtroom.  In the case where you cannot bring the items into court, you may want to bring some pictures of them for illustration in their absence.  If you must bring pictures, be sure that they include some close ups as well as overview shots so that the judge can see as much as possible.

Estimates for repairs to your damaged goods should also be brought with you to help you present your case.  If your case is one that involves estimates for work to be done, it is advisable to bring three different estimate quotes rather than only one. 

Often, small claims suits may involve witnesses.  People who were present during transactions or conversations between you and the other party can be helpful in your case in many circumstances.  If you do have any witnesses, be sure to bring them with you on your court date.  The judge may wish to ask some questions of witnesses from both sides in order to get the full story.

Be ready for when you get your day in small claims court.  Gather all your evidence together as early as possible in the case so that you know you’re prepared.  Go through it all again before the date to be sure you remember what you have with you and make sure it is all organized so that you can produce it easily when the time comes.

Do you get what you Pay for with Expensive Lawyers?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

There seems to be an unwritten law that says the more you pay for your legal representation, the better a service you will receive.  Unfortunately, this logic flies in the face of the fairness of the American justice system that vows equal and unbiased representation to all citizens who find themselves caught up in legal cases.  If you do have the money to file a claim or a suit against another person or company, it can be difficult to look past the flashy and high priced law firms for representation that seems both trustworthy and worth every penny in the end.  Is this really the case though?

There are also a lot of low-budget law firms out there – you can see their ads plastered on magazines, park benches, television and the radio, often with people shouting at you to call their claims firm and cash in on whatever tragedy you may have suffered through.  Most of these are specialty services and very often you really do get what you pay for with them…if you want to cut legal costs but don’t want to compromise on the quality of the service, you should be looking into small, locally-based law firms that may only house one or two qualified lawyers. 

Local lawyers are more likely to be dedicated to other local residents because they care about their community and of course are concerned with building a good name for themselves in the town or region.  Local lawyers will provide a cheaper service without generally cutting on the quality of the actual advice or representation – they will know their way around legal forms and documents and can advise you on the best course of action whatever your situation. 

 In the case of expensive lawyers, however, you should always be getting quality service but the question really is, will that high-priced service be any better or different than if you hire a local lawyer?  Generally speaking, the answer is no.  Both of these choices will be fully trained and able to meet your legal needs.  The only thing you should look out for is a lack of specific legal knowledge on your own situation – ask a few questions of your potential legal representative regarding their experience with cases like yours, and if you get the distinct impression that they are not familiar enough with your circumstances then you should move on to another firm or independent practitioner. 

In terms of expense, it is untrue to make the general statement that the more money you spend, the better representation you will receive.  What you need to be looking for is a lawyer you trust, who is experienced in your type of situation and who does not want to bankrupt you for the pleasure of their service.  It is quite possible to find the sort of legal help you need without spending your life savings – just be patient and don’t hire anyone to represent you until you’re sure they are the right one.

Panicking before your court date? Here are 5 things to get you calm and collected

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Most of us haven’t had the distinct pleasure of being in a courtroom, either defending ourselves or trying to establish justice after someone has wronged us in some way.  Because of this, our experience often falls to those few moments when we were swept away watching Judge Judy or some other TV reality court show.  The people seem angry and unwilling to compromise, and sometimes the judge can come off entirely unsympathetic and this can be very frightening if you are facing a court date for any reason.  These five tips can help you calm down and get into the right frame of mind for facing court so that you don’t wind up passed out on the floor:

Research your legal situation

If you know the ins and outs of your legal position, you will be infinitely better prepared for your appearance in court.  If you simply show up, answer some questions and cross your fingers, it is far less likely that you will leave with the outcome you desire or that you deserve.  Do some groundwork: pick up any pamphlets that you find in the legal buildings and consult your library for any literature that may be useful on the day.  You should be figuring out the real legal obligations of you or the other parties involved in the case so that you understand what you may or may not have done wrong, and vice versa.

Organize your research

When you have gathered all the relevant information for your case, you should start to analyze it according to the points you feel need to be made to the judge.  For any information you have on the case, such as your whereabouts on a particular day or how well you and a defendant know each other, you should figure out on what grounds the judge will be interested in knowing such information to avoid him or her dismissing it.  Know what the judge wants to know and organize your facts accordingly.

Decide whether or not to include witnesses in your case

Whether you are working with legal representation or not, you will need to think about bringing witnesses in to substantiate your claims or defense.  You need to decide whether this is actually necessary or if it is a waste of the court’s time.  Don’t use witnesses unless they are crucial to the case.

Gather all documentation needed for your court appearance

The worst thing you can do is be unprepared when you come into the courtroom, so figure out what it is you need to present to the judge to back up your story and your claim and be SURE to bring it with  you!

Think about what you are going to say in court

The judge will ask you if you have anything relevant to say before the hearing begins, and you may also be making your closing statement yourself so it is essential that you put some thought into what you will say.  Use your research and be clear, concise and to the point when you address the court.