29 Mar Witness Deposition Preparation: Everything You Need to Know
Depositions have the potential to quickly become stressful and intimidating. A witness who has no prior experience with legal proceedings will likely have many unanswered questions about how to properly prepare. Whether you are a lawyer preparing your client or a future deponent look for information on how to prepare for your deposition, you have come to the right place!
So what do you need to know about preparing to be a witness in a deposition? A few of the most important things to know before you begin your deposition include what to say during your deposition, how to act, and the best attire to wear to your deposition. It can also be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the most commonly asked deposition questions.
In this post, we will share basic information about participating in a deposition as a witness. By spending some time in preparation, you will be able to participate more effectively and efficiently in your upcoming deposition. As a lawyer, you can ensure your client has a successful deposition by preparing the witness properly.
Preparing for the Witness for the Deposition
Although not held in a courtroom, a deposition is a serious legal proceeding. The information that is shared in the deposition will be used by the questioning lawyer as they establish their case. Because of this, it is important to spend time preparing for the deposition.
Learning basic information regarding behavior, attire, and questions that will be asked can help you have a more positive deposition experience. Other topics that are important to cover with your client include their limitations before the deposition takes place as well as what to bring with them to the deposition.
What to Say During a Deposition
During a deposition, the entire focus is on the information that the deponent shares in response to questions. There are some guidelines for a witness to follow to ensure they do not share misinformation or otherwise create a negative response from their words.
The participants in a deposition are under a legally binding oath. It’s important to answer each question that is asked of you truthfully. Failing to do so will have serious ramifications.
When you answer each question throughout the deposition, keep your answers short and concise. Fully answer the question but refrain from sharing excess information. For example, if the questioning lawyer asks if you were speeding, a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice. They can then choose to ask additional follow-up questions if it is deemed necessary.
Never guess on information provided during a deposition. Only share information that you know to be true. If you are not sure of the answer to a question, simply state “I’m not sure”. Refrain from making guesses, sharing information that is simply hearsay, or making assumptions.
Many questioning lawyers will try to trap the deponent into answering a compound question. By combining two questions, they hope that the deponent provides information that may not be entirely true.
If this occurs during your deposition, the lawyer will be asked to repeat the questions separately from each other. This is one of the many reasons why it is crucial to carefully respond to each question only after thinking through the entirety of your answer.
How to Act During a Deposition
A witness’s behavior during a deposition often says more about their side of the story than their words do. The lawyer will be carefully watching the deponent’s body language and facial expressions. Along the same lines, a witness should never answer a question with gestures or expressions. Any question that is asked during a deposition must be responded to verbally.
Professional behavior is crucial for each individual involved in a deposition. Especially for deponents that are inexperienced in legal situations, sharing this information is important. While you are participating in a deposition in any capacity, it is important to remain calm. Any behavior that is not strictly professional can harm the testimony that you are sharing.
Always refrain from making jokes, using profanity, or displaying outbursts of anger while you are a witness in a deposition. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, simply ask for a break to compose yourself.
What to Wear to a Deposition
It’s important to prepare the witness to present themselves in a professional manner during the deposition. When you are participating in a deposition, it is important to consider your attire. Depositions are important legal gatherings. Because of this, individuals should dress as if they are appearing in court.
Business attire is the best option for any legal meeting as it supports a responsible and professional appearance. The witness should dress conservatively, covering any offensive tattoos or piercings. You can find more information on what to wear to a deposition here.
Common Deposition Questions
The most important way to prepare a witness for a deposition is by sharing some of the most commonly asked deposition questions. This will provide them with the opportunity to prepare for the questions that may arise. Thinking through their answers beforehand will allow them to communicate clearly and concisely.
Depositions all begin with a series of preliminary questions. The primary goal of these questions is the help the deponent relax. However, by asking important questions pertaining to their knowledge of depositions, the questioning lawyer hopes to gather information that they may use during the trial.
Questions relating to the deponent’s background will likely follow the preliminary questions. This may include information about their education, living situation, marital status, or other topics pertaining to the individual’s background.
The questioning lawyer will most likely proceed to questions pertaining to the case once they are satisfied with the background information they receive. This is often the longest portion and the one that causes the witness the most stress. Each situation will vary, but as their lawyer, you may be able to provide them with insight as to what this portion of the questioning will look like for them.
We have shared more in-depth information regarding the most common deposition questions here.
What Will Happen During a Deposition?
It is often helpful to walk your client through the happenings of a deposition. Most likely, this will be their first experience with a meeting of this nature. Preparing them with a general outline will help to ease their nerves.
Upon arriving at the deposition location, it is wise to not engage in conversations of any type with other participants. As a witness, it’s wise to use this time to focus your mind on the upcoming questioning and clear your mind of distractions.
Typically, once each participant arrives at the deposition location, the deponent will take a legally binding oath. After this is complete, the questioning lawyer will begin to conduct the deposition by asking a series of questions.
After the prosecuting lawyer has concluded their questioning, the deposition will be complete. Each participant is then free to leave.
What Happens Once the Deposition is Complete?
There are several things that take place once a deposition is complete. After the deposition, a court reporter will produce a transcript of the deposition. The court reporter will distribute this transcript to each party. If a video was filmed during the deposition, the video footage will be edited and provided to each of the parties as well.
The lawyers will review the transcript and other information gathered from the deposition as they continue to establish their respective sides of the case. At this point, the parties can work towards a settlement. If the parties can not agree on a fair settlement, the lawsuit will move on to a courtroom trial.
As a witness, it’s important to know what is going on behind the scenes after you complete your deposition. Not only does this help you understand the process, but it also gives you insight into why a clear and concise deposition is so important.
Why Deposition Preparation is Crucial to Success
Preparing a witness for their deposition will not only ease their nerves surrounding the event, but it can also allow them to participate more effectively. By sharing important information about what to expect once they arrive at the deposition, you will eliminate the potential for mental distress.
When you provide them with some of the commonly asked questions, you allow them to think through their potential answers. Although it is important that they do not memorize their answers to questions, a bit of forethought on the topic can eliminate confusion when the questions arise.
Because many individuals have no previous experience in legal matters, proper coaching will not only improve their experience but will also provide you with a more ideal outcome when the case reaches settlement or trial.
Thank you for reading Deposition Academy! You can find more information about successful depositions here.
This article was sponsored by The Lackey Law Firm, a personal injury lawyer in Huntsville, Alabama. They specialize in personal injury law, providing many clients with exceptional service and proven results. You can visit their Huntsville Personal Injury Lawyer website here to learn more.