You’ve been summoned to provide a deposition. What’s next? While the thought of telling your side of a story might be intimidating, a deposition can go smoothly if you know what to expect and you prepare well ahead of time.
An Overview of Depositions
A deposition is simply a question-and-answer session. You may be called to give a deposition if you are one of the parties in a case or if you have witness testimony. A deposition is done under oath, so anything you say can be used as evidence in a court of law. In fact, one of the primary reasons that lawyers conduct depositions is to secure a witness’s testimony if they expect that witness to change their story before court. If a witness changes their testimony after giving a deposition, the deposition serves as evidence that the witness may not be truthful.
However, there are other reasons that a deposition may be necessary. Lawyers use this as part of discovery. They uncover the available evidence, gather the different stories told by witnesses, and learn important details about the case. A deposition is also valuable if the witness may not be able to testify in court.
During the deposition, the deponent answers questions asked by the lawyer. The entire procedure is transcribed by a court reporter.
Will Your Case Require a Deposition?
Depositions are a useful tool in many cases, so you should be prepared to give a deposition if you are involved in a court case as a plaintiff, defendant, or witness. However, deposition is not necessary in every court case. Depending on the details of the case, the lawyers may use other discovery tools to get the evidence they need.
The Deposition Process
A deposition may occur in an attorney’s office or another secure location. You should expect to see attorneys from both sides present, as well as a court reporter. All deposed witnesses swear an oath to answer questions truthfully before the deposition begins. Everyone present is informed of the rules.
Next comes the direct examination portion of the deposition. The attorney questions the deponent, and after the first attorney finishes their line of questioning, the other attorneys can also cross-examine the deponent. Attorneys generally focus on the accident or event in question in an effort to understand what the witness saw, how they interpreted it, and what it means for their case.
After the deposition finishes, the court reporter provides transcriptions to both sides. This allows both parties to use the deposition in their case. This is one reason that it’s so important to have an attorney during a deposition. What you say may be interpreted in different ways, depending on who is reading the transcript. An attorney who represents you can help you avoid unintentionally implicating yourself.
Tips for a Productive Deposition
If you’ve been deposed, keeping a few key tips in mind can help you maintain a low stress level throughout the process:
- Depositions can be long and mentally draining, so get plenty of sleep and a good meal before.
- Take breaks as needed. The process is tiring and pushing through fatigue may lead you to say things you do not intend to say.
- Tell the truth.
- Stop and think before answering a question. While you can change or rephrase your statements, your original statements will still be reflected in the official transcript.
- Answer questions clearly and concisely. Do not give more information than what is being requested.
- If you do not understand, ask for clarification.
- Stay calm, even if a questioning attorney tries to rattle you.
- Avoid answering questions belligerently or sarcastically. Maintain a calm and neutral disposition.
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