DEPOSITIONS: Why Are They Important?

A deposition is part of the discovery process and is used as a means to collect information. One party asks questions and the other party, or witness, answers these questions. The individual who is answering the questions is the ‘person being deposed.’

The deposition takes place outside of the courtroom and the person who is being deposed is placed under oath. This type of discovery allows the parties to learn what the other party intends to say at trial. Whoever requested the deposition usually asks questions first, and if the person, who is being deposed, has an attorney, the attorney may ask follow-up questions; however, these questions can only relate to the clearing up of misunderstandings that occurred during the individual’s initial deposition questioning.

How Depositions Can Affect Your Case

Depositions can help your case because your attorney will know what testimony to expect from the other party during the trial. This allows for better preparation of cross-examination questions. In addition, the deposition may shine some light on certain documents that may show the other party (or its witnesses) are not being truthful. In addition, the transcript of the deposition can be used during the trial while the individual testifies. If he or she lies, the deposition itself can be used as evidence that something different was said previously. Keep in mind, the same benefits that you receive, the other side receives as well.

If you say something during your deposition that turns out to be incorrect or false, or you describe something differently as you testify, your case could be seriously harmed. The attorney for the other side could use any of these inconsistencies to question your entire testimony and your ability to speak truthfully about the case. For this reason, remaining truthful throughout your entire deposition is essential.

What Questions Will I Be Asked and What Answers Should I Give?

Typically, the attorneys or the parties can ask whatever they want, as long as it relates to the case. Your lawyer will help you prepare for your deposition, going over some of the questions that you may be asked. Since you will be under oath, answer truthfully; otherwise, you could be accused of perjury. If you are unable to remember something, just say “I do not remember” or “I do not know” instead of trying to make up an answer or just take a guess.

Limit Your Answers

When you are being asked questions by the other party’s attorney, provide as little information as possible, here is why:

  • Since your deposition will not take place in front of a judge and jury, trying to add extra details for the sake of impressing someone is not necessary.
  • Once the trial begins, either side can use the testimony given at the time of the deposition to discredit witnesses at trial. Consider that the more details given during the deposition, the more likely you are to describe something a little differently at trial, which will be used against you by the other side.

11 Tips for a Successful Deposition

  1. If you are having difficulty understanding a question, do not be shy about asking the individual to rephrase it for you.
  2. Do not volunteer information. Listen to the question and answer only the question asked. The job of those giving you the deposition is to find the information they need; therefore, the more information they receive from you, the better their chances are of harming your case.
  3. Avoid using head nods or “uh-huhs.” Your testimony needs to be crystal clear so when the transcript is referred to, it is easy to read and understand. Although we frequently use this type of language daily, depositions are formal, so all answers need to be obvious.
  4. Nothing destroys a case quicker than misrepresenting, exaggerating or not being truthful; therefore, be honest.
  5. Allow the attorney to complete the entire questions before providing the answer. Take your time and think your answer through before you give it.
  6. Watch out for compound questions. Double questions can be confusing, and your attorney will probably object to them.
  7. Always listen to your attorney because, without him or her, you will not have anyone to speak with before you give your answer.
  8. Do not use words like always or never. These phrases are too definite and could lead to a questioning of your credibility.
  9. It is okay to circle back. If, during your deposition, an answer to a previous question comes to mind, let the questioner know so you can provide the answer.
  10. Remain calm and collected. Although the opposing counsel might ask you questions that seem as if they do not matter, just stay calm and give thoughtful honest answers.
  11. The communications that occur between you and your attorney are privileged; therefore, whatever is discussed between the two of you is off-limits.

Finally, when answering your deposition questions, be honest, only give answers that you are sure about and remember that the answers being given should be limited, only providing the details that are absolutely necessary.

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