What Happens During A Deposition

What Happens During a Deposition?

What Happens During a Deposition?

When you’re involved in a lawsuit, many things going on behind the scenes that you might not know about and can seem daunting. One of those things is the deposition. A deposition is a formal interview where attorneys can ask witnesses questions about what they saw or heard related to the case. It’s an integral part of the legal process and can help to determine who is responsible for what happened.

So what happens during a deposition? What happens during a deposition is that a lawyer will ask the deposed questions regarding the case to flesh out and strategize the case that they will possibly bring to court. This is because not every deposition will go to court, oftentimes it can be settled outside of court and a deal is made.

If you’re involved in a lawsuit, it’s important to talk to your lawyer to understand what a deposition is and what happens during one. In this article, we will break down everything that happens in a deposition so you can be prepared.

What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is a sworn statement under oath that your attorney or the opposing counsel will ask a client or defendant. In a deposition, since you are under oath, you are legally required to tell the truth. Many times a lawsuit is completely dropped as a result of deposition. A deposition is a very important part of our legal system. In that attorneys may gauge client responses, gather information, and create a strategy before appearing in court.

What Is the Purpose of a Deposition?

The purpose of a deposition is to gather information about the case before it goes to trial. The lawyer can flesh out the case and question witnesses who may not be available to testify in court. All the answers given at a deposition are transcribed and can be used at a later date to impeach a witness in court if their answers do not line up with testimony given during the deposition. For this reason, it is imperative to tell only the truth. Additionally, the client has made a sworn oath, to tell the truth during the deposition and the trial. So if a lawyer can find a discrepancy in your statement, or the sworn statement has
changed, the witness will be impeached. Impeachment will severely affect the credibility of a witness and may turn the odds in the eye of the jurors.

Who Is Present During a Deposition?

Anyone who is pertinent to the case may be present at the deposition. However, most frequently it will be your legal counsel, the opposing legal counsel, sometimes a stenographer if an electronic recording is not being used, and someone qualified to swear in testimony. Typically, if you are the witness or the deposed, it will just be you, your legal counsel, the opposing counsel, and the individual swearing you in.

What Happens During A Deposition

What Happens During the Deposition?

A lawyer will ask the deposed questions regarding the case to flesh out and strategize the case that they will possibly bring to court. Not every deposition will go to court. Many times it is determined that the issue can be settled outside of court and a deal is made. It is important to note that one of the main purposes for a deposition is so that there is not any “surprise testimony” during the trial.

There are two main types of questions that you will be asked: direct questions and leading questions.

  • Direct Question Example: “where were you the morning of October 20th?”
  • Leading Question Example: “you were running errands with your children, correct?”

A direct question allows the deposed to give a complete answer, as well as explain further. While a leading question does not. The opposing counsel may ask questions that are purposely inflammatory or tricky to impeach a witness. As well as make them appear less credible in a court of law. Should you be faced with a situation like this, it is suggested that you defer to your attorney and only answer truthfully.

List of Common Information Gathered During a Deposition:

Background

This will establish who you are and why you have been subpoenaed to give a sworn statement. This typically includes your age, career, personal contact information, and education.

Incident Report

This will establish what happened to you or what you witnessed to be subpoenaed.

Qualifications

Experts in certain fields may be called in to give their expert opinion on the situation. To be classified as an expert, the attorney will ask questions about what qualifies you as an expert to give your opinion.

Video

Sometimes attorneys will opt to use video recording devices during a deposition. These videos are mostly used in personal injury and criminal cases. The videos can be played back during the trial to evoke emotion from the jury.

Your attorney will mainly be asking you direct questions to establish a timeline of events and your personal account of those events. The opposing counsel will also get a turn to ask you questions and the majority will be leading questions. It is important to note that your attorney or the opposing counsel may object to a question. Should that happen, refrain from speaking until the objection is complete and your attorney is ready to continue.

What Should You Do When Struggling to Answer a Question?

If you are struggling to answer a question you may also ask the opposing counsel to repeat the question or ask for clarity. However, there are times that instead of repeating the question, you will be instructed to respond. If that happens, you may ask the court reporter to repeat the question. Some attorneys are more aggressive than others in their line of questioning. So if you find the opposing counsel is asking questions in quick succession or not allowing you to fully complete your answer, you may reiterate calmly that you have not finished answering their question.

Once the opposing counsel has wrapped up their questions, your attorney may feel it is necessary to ask you a few more direct questions. The purpose of this is to clarify the story after the opposing counsel has attempted to discredit or poke holes in your testimony.

Do I need to bring anything with me to my deposition? There is no need for the deposed to bring supplies, take notes, or bring in evidence. As your attorney should be fully prepared with notes and evidence. Only bring items that your attorney has instructed you to bring. It is not a good idea to surprise your attorney with anything unexpected during a deposition.

what happens during a deposition

What Happens After the Deposition?

Immediately following a deposition, the deposition transcripts and evidence are sent to the court reporter. There are a few outcomes to the end of a deposition. The first outcome would be that your attorney takes all evidence and testimony given during the deposition, seals, and submits it, and then will review all information gathered. Once the attorney signs off on the transcripts, it is submitted to court records.

Other times, based on the outcome of a deposition, the attorney may move toward settlement. In that case, there will not be a trial. Additionally, you as the client will be able to request a copy of the transcript to verify what you said was accurately recorded. If you feel there was an error made, you have a small window of time to make corrections and re-submit. Once the window of time to make corrections passes, you will no longer be able to change your statement and you will have to abide by what you said. If after the deposition your case goes to trial, you may use your deposition transcripts to review and refresh your memory before appearing in court. It is strongly recommended that you study your deposition before your court appearance to avoid impeachment.

what happens during a deposition

How Long Does a Deposition Last?

The answer to this question varies by the severity of the case and the number of witnesses. For an individual, you may be deposed for 1- 8 hours or multiple days. For this reason, you are free to request breaks whenever you need to. It can be quite stressful and nerve-wracking to be deposed. So if you need time to collect your thoughts you are free to request sometimes. However, it is imperative that you do not take the break as a chance to discuss with outside parties about the goings on in the deposition.

Additionally, it is not recommended to make a habit of requesting breaks during a deposition. This may affect your perception by the opposing counsel and can unnecessarily draw out the deposition.

Conclusion

Depositions are a central part of our legal system. So it is vital to understand what goes on, how to prepare, and what to expect after the deposition. In this article, we have broken down that a deposition is a process in which attorneys gather information to build a case, why it is important to establish truthful information in a deposition before going to court, what kind of questions you may be asked, and what happens after. The process can seem scary, confusing, and daunting at times. This is why it is important to talk with your lawyer for legal advice. We hope that you have a clearer understanding of this legal process!

Matt McWilliams
matt@mcwilliamsmedia.com

Deposition Academy is an online website created to guide those in the legal videographer industry or those interested in starting a legal videography business. The site has expanded to cover a variety of legal topics that are related to depositions and the deposition process. Our team of writers have written for a variety of legal blogs and website.



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