08 Jun What is a Telephone Deposition?
Are you a witness in an upcoming lawsuit? Maybe you’re just interested in the legal system and want to know more about depositions. Unless you have personally participated in a lawsuit, it is likely that you have a very limited understanding of the legal system. Today, we are going to cover telephone depositions and everything that process entails.
What is a telephone deposition? A telephone deposition is a way to record a witnesses’ testimony under oath when a face-to-face meeting is not necessary. Telephone depositions are an economical means to obtain witnesses’ testimony when the parties concerned live in different states. This type of deposition also enables multiple parties to participate in a conference call.
Telephone depositions can be held in a wide variety of circumstances. There are also several rules and regulations that apply to telephone depositions which are dependent on the specific situation. Although a telephone deposition may seem like the most convenient option, there are several factors to consider when determining if it is the right choice for you.
Why People Have a Telephone Deposition
When a witness is called to testify in a lawsuit or other court hearing, they are commonly required to record their testimony while under oath. This process usually takes place outside of the courtroom without the oversight of a judge. The deposition is a part of the pre-trial investigation process in which all parties gather extensive information to prepare for the trial.
Depositions are a way to create a “level playing field” among all parties involved. They provide an opportunity to view the evidence prior to a trial. This system eliminates any surprises on the day of the trial, which are often an unfair advantage. They are also a way to record a witnesses’ testimony to verify that their story doesn’t change with the passing of time.
During the trial, the recorded deposition becomes a reference to either contradict or confirm the witnesses’ testimony, or just to refresh their memory. It will also be used in the event that the witness is unable to attend the trial in person. By reading the deposition in court, it becomes part of the court record for the trial.
There are several reasons why a witness would participate in a telephone deposition. The most common reason a telephone deposition takes place is when a witness is unable to travel. Oftentimes, distance is the determining factor in this situation. Telephone depositions are much more economical when the parties involved live in different states.
Another common reason a telephone deposition occurs is when the witness is unable to travel due to physical limitations or illness. Each situation varies and a doctor’s note is often required. This note verifies that the witnesses’ physical state makes traveling impossible.
Reasons to Avoid a Telephone Deposition
Although a telephone deposition may seem like the most convenient option, there are several reasons why it may be best to pursue another type of deposition if possible.
Telephone depositions rely heavily on telecommunications technology. Faulty equipment, poor connections, or even surrounding noise may impact the quality and efficacy of a telephone deposition.
Disconnected calls, static or poor hearing could cause serious issues while recording the deposition. There are ways to avoid this, such as testing all equipment or connections prior to the call. However, technology is rather unreliable at times and even the highest quality equipment can fail.
Body language does not translate through the telephone which presents another challenge with this type of deposition. It can be rather difficult to discern changes in demeanor which can have negative ramifications on both sides of the deposition.
The witness may not be able to correctly convey their point through the telephone. Likewise, the attorney is not able to change their questions as easily based on the physical response of the witness.
Besides being unable to read body language, it is also common to have mistakes in the official court report. These mistakes are due to the court reporter being unable to understand or hear your deposition. Miscommunication which is most commonly due to a poor connection.
As you can see, there are several areas to consider when determining if a telephone deposition is the best choice for your individual situation. If you find yourself in a situation when a telephone deposition is necessary, it is important to use the proper equipment. It is equally important to communicate well to avoid mistakes.
Who Participates in a Telephone Deposition
There are several parties who may participate in a telephone deposition. Each individual situation may vary slightly. However, these are a few of the parties that will likely be present on either side of the telephone deposition:
- Witness being questioned, also known as the deponent.
- Deposing Attorney will be in attendance providing support for the witness.
- Examining Attorney will be conducting the deposition. This attorney represents the opposing party in the trial.
- Members of the opposing party will often be in attendance.
- Court Reporter or stenographer depending on the state rules and regulations.
- Other parties concerned in the investigation are free to participate.
- Experts in a specific area or additional witnesses’ to aid the council.
It is interesting to note that there are no regulations on who is able to attend a deposition either in person or over the phone. The only situation in which attendance is restricted is when a protective order has been filed against an individual or individuals.
A telephone deposition (or any deposition, for that matter) takes place without a judge present. Because of this, telephone depositions have a more informal feel. However, as a witness, you are still under oath. Any shared information becomes part of the permanent court record.
Rules and Regulations
The rules and regulations for telephone depositions vary depending on the state in which you reside. One of the most common rules is that there must be someone present with the witness to swear them in under oath. This person also verifies that they are, in fact, the witness.
In some states, both the witness (or deponent) and the court reporter must be in the same location. This will decrease the likelihood of miscommunication in the final report. At the same time, there are other states that allow the court reporter to be in an entirely separate location.
Surprisingly, at the time of this article, the majority of states have no rules or regulations regarding telephone depositions. Because of this, it is incredibly important to review the laws of your state before performing or participating in a telephone deposition.
Other Types of Depositions
In addition to telephone depositions, there are several other types of depositions. It is important to choose the proper type of deposition for your situation. The most common types of depositions are:
- Oral Deposition is the most common type of deposition. This deposition will take place in a face-to-face setting, often in an attorney’s office. However, in certain situations, an oral deposition can also take place at the witnesses’ home or place of business. A court reporter will always be in attendance to record the deposition. A videographer can also record an oral deposition by request of either attorney.
- Video Depositions are can be conducted as either a video conference or a recorded video. The recorded deposition is often played in court during the trial. By using a video deposition, the testimony, as well as corresponding body language, is on record. Video depositions are also the best way to preserve the witnesses’ testimony if old age or severe illness plays a part.
- Written Depositions are less common. In a written deposition, the witness answers questions in writing while under the supervision of a deposition officer. There are several guidelines that set the time frame for a written deposition. These guidelines allow all parties involved ample time to submit and answer their questions.
Will I have to answer questions during a telephone deposition? Yes and no. You have the same rights under oath during a deposition as you have while in court. You have the right to refuse to answer a question during the deposition under a few circumstances. The attorney that is defending you will offer further insight into these circumstances. However, during a telephone deposition, you are able to consult your attorney if you have reservations answering a question.
Why was my deposition is canceled? There are several reasons why a deposition is canceled. Most often, a settlement is in place. A settlement eliminates the need for additional information. The opposing attorney may also have found the information they were looking for through another witness and no longer needed your testimony. Your attorney will inform you in the event of a canceled deposition.
How long does a telephone deposition last? The length of deposition depends largely on the complexity of the case. The opposing attorney will also play a large part in how long each deposition lasts. The experience level of the attorney will likely dictate how long the deposition takes. A telephone deposition can last anywhere from one to seven hours. However, a typical deposition will last around two hours.