If you have been injured because of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you may find yourself involved in litigation to recover compensation for your losses. As a part of the legal process, you will likely be involved in depositions. You may be unfamiliar with this part of the trial process. Let’s look at what a deposition is, how it’s used, and how you can prepare for one.
A deposition is a tool that gets used during the “discovery” stage of litigation, where attorneys for all parties are seeking to gather as much evidence as possible in preparation for trial. A deposition is essentially the oral examination of a witness (who may also be a party to the litigation), with attorneys representing the various parties to the lawsuit asking questions of the witness. Depositions are typically held in an attorney’s office, but that’s not a requirement.
The witness at a deposition is sworn to an oath and must provide truthful answers. False statements or misrepresentations at a deposition can be grounds for a charge of perjury.
A court reporter is usually present at the deposition, so that all questions and answers will be recorded. It’s also fairly common to videotape the deposition.
Though the rules of evidence generally apply at a deposition, there is no judge present to rule on any objections that may be raised. Those objections will be noted on the record and the deposition generally continues. An attorney may only instruct a witness not to answer a question in order to preserve a privilege, or if the court has already issued an order that certain questions are off limits.
It’s always best to be as fully prepared as possible for a deposition, so that you’re not surprised by questions, and don’t run the risk of losing your composure. Review your recollection of the facts with your attorney before you go to the deposition.
When you get to the deposition, always answer as truthfully as you can. Don’t worry if a question or answer may be ruled inadmissible in court. Your attorney will carefully monitor your responses and will make all necessary objections. Take time to listen carefully to the questions asked and don’t be afraid to ask to have the question repeated. As much as possible, limit your answers to the specific questions asked. Don’t volunteer information, unless absolutely necessary. Even then, you have the right to discuss your potential answers with your attorney before they are put on the record.
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