How to Handle a Deposition in a Lawsuit
If you are the plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit, you may be required to give a deposition. A deposition is testimony given under oath. The attorney for the opposing side will ask questions and you will be required to answer them. Your attorney will be present to make certain that you are not asked any inappropriate questions. However, the questions allowed during a deposition are of a much broader nature than those asked if you are actually testifying in a court room.
What You Can Expect at a Deposition
Most of the time, you will either go to the opposing attorney’s office or will be in your own attorney’s office. You will likely be in a conference room. Your attorney, the opposing attorney and a court reporter will be in the room. In addition, if your deposition is being videoed, a camera will be present along with a camera operator. Sometimes the other part(ies) will be present. Most frequently though, it will be two attorneys, you, and the court reporter. It is becoming more common to video depositions as well, which means you can expect a video camera operator. Your deposition is unlikely
to be the only one. The opposing party or parties will also be deposed. Often witnesses, especially expert witnesses, will be deposed as well.
You will be sworn in by the court reporter. Remember, you are answering questions under oath. Opposing counsel will explain to you how the deposition works, and will ask a series of question. The attorney may show you any relevant documents, pictures or other exhibits and ask you to comment on them.
Your attorney should prepare you for the deposition. This does not mean the attorney will tell you what to stay. Rather your attorney will tell you several basic things:
- Always tell the truth.
- Don’t rush to answer. Slow down, take a deep breath, think about your answer, and then answer when you are ready.
- Only answer the question asked. If the question is a yes or no question, say yes or no. Don’t go into detailed explanations. Answer the question and then stop.
- If your attorney objects, wait until your attorney tells you to answer before you do so.
- If you do not know the answer say so.
- If you do not remember something, say so.
- If you feel you need to go back and address a question during the deposition, do so.
Depositions can be quite long. Most of the time they are finished in one session, but sometimes they can require two or more. At the least, they tend to take several hours. If you need a break, you are entitled to ask for one.
The Purpose of Depositions
There are several reasons lawyers depose the opposing side and witnesses. These reasons include:
- Opposing counsel wants to see what kind of witness you will be. Are you able to control yourself? Will you lose your temper? Will you burst into tears? What kind of witness you will be in court matters for your case.
- They want to learn about you. While the opposing attorney probably knows quite a lot about you before you get to the point of being deposed, they don’t know everything. And they are digging, as much as they are allowed to, under the rules of discovery.
- They want to know what you will say. For example, if you are claiming you are inured and it has impacted your life, opposing counsel needs to know what you are claiming you can no longer do.
- Especially in the case of experts and other witnesses, counsel wants to see if there is anything to challenge in their testimony, and how they will respond to challenges. They are also looking for mistakes.
- They want to lock down your testimony. You likely have already provided answers to interrogatories, so the lawyer wants to see if you change your answers. If your case goes to court and you testify, if your testimony disagrees with your deposition, the lawyer will bring that up in order to discredit you in front of the jury. This is why it is so important to tell the truth.
Remember, the key to being deposed is to tell the truth and to listen to your attorney. Keep in mind, if you are injured and making a decision about whether to file a claim against the person or business that hurt you, don’t hesitate to contact Lowenthal & Abrams. We have been helping injury victims for over 40 years. There is no charge for a consultation.