The Facts on Depositions
Most of us who don’t work in the legal system have a very limited understanding of the ins and outs of the legal process. In reality, the bulk of what we do know about the legal process comes from what we see on television and in movies. This has of course resulted in many misconceptions of what really happens in the court room, during depositions, and other legal hearings.
Our goal with this blog post is give you the facts on depositions. We want you to have the knowledge you need to help you prepare for a deposition. Before we go any further, we want to tell you that a deposition hearing should not be intimidating or scary. Once you’ve finished reading this article you’ll have exactly what you need to know about depositions to ensure you’re prepared, confident, comfortable, and ready to answer all questions posed to you.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is your legal testimony. This testimony is done under oath. Your lawyer and the opposing lawyer will be in the room. As well, there will be an official present to record and transcribe the deposition, often this is a court reporter near you or a legal transcriptionist from your area. The questions and answers are considered to be legal testimony and is no different than that of testimony given in the court room. A judge does not preside over the deposition. Often a video camera will be set up and used to record the entire deposition hearing.
Are There Any Deposition Guidelines or Rules?
Yes, because the testimony given in a deposition is considered to be legal testimony, there are a number of rules governing depositions. Your lawyer should review the following guidelines with you before the deposition:
- You are speaking under oath.
- You know and understand that all questions and your answers are recorded by a court reporter. You have the right to review this transcript.
- The court reporter cannot record non-verbal gestures. This means you must answer yes instead of nodding your head.
- If you don’t understand a question, you can ask for clarification.
- Do your best to speak clearly – this helps ensure an accurate recording and transcription.
What is the Purpose of a Deposition?
There are four key purposes that determine the need for a deposition:
- The opposing lawyer wants to collect all the facts you have about the situation in question. The lawyer wants to hear how you answer questions about the case.
- The opposing lawyer is collecting information for the trial and wants to know how you’ll answer when in the court room. This allows them to better prepare for the trial.
- Your deposition testimony can be used during the trial. If you answer a question differently in the deposition or during the trial, your deposition testimony will be used to further question you or to cast doubt on your version of events or facts.
- Sometimes the deposition testimony can be used to shorten or even avoid a trial.
It’s important to remember that your deposition testimony also helps your lawyer prepare for trial. The deposition gives your lawyer insight into how the opposing lawyer plans to approach the trial and build a case.
How to Prepare for a Deposition
Your lawyer should help you prepare the deposition, however, depending on the timeline, this might not be possible. We suggest you review these tips on how to prepare for a deposition.
- Always tell the truth.
- Listen carefully to the question. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification.
- If you don’t understand the question, don’t answer it.
- Take your time and pause after each question.
- Never ever guess. Don’t speculate. Remember what you say can be used during the court room trial.
- Remember you have the right to talk to your lawyer.
- Keep your answers short and on point.
- Remember that you must always be verbal – do not nod or shake your head or shrug your shoulders.
- Keep your composure and do not let the opposing lawyer rattle you.
- You can review and read any documents provided during the deposition.
Above all else, remember that you must be truthful and the more you can remain calm and patient – the better. To further help you prepare for your upcoming deposition, review this document provided by the court system. When it comes to a deposition – the more preparation, the better.