What is a Deposition?

If you are involved in a lawsuit, you will most likely be required to attend a deposition. Simply put, a deposition is oral testimony given under oath before a trial. Depositions are always recorded somehow, usually by a court reporter or stenographer, and occasionally by video or audio recording. If you are being deposed, you will be put under oath and the opposing lawyer will ask you questions relating to your case. Since depositions take place before trial, you won’t be in a courtroom or in front of a judge or a jury. Typically, depositions are held in an attorney’s office with just a few people in attendance. Depositions are an important step in Discovery, which is the exchange of information about a case between the parties involved. Depositions have two essential functions:

  • Find out exactly what witnesses know.
  • Preserve witness testimony.

In addition, attorneys often use depositions to:

  • Learn essential facts about the case.
  • Determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side.
  • Hear what to expect witnesses to say at trial.
  • Present the basic arguments an attorney plans to make at trial to the opposing counsel.

After your deposition is complete, you will probably be sent a copy of the transcript or video recording for you to review with your attorney.

Who has to go to a deposition?

Depositions usually involve at least four people: the witness, the witness’ attorney, the opposing attorney, and a court reporter. Sometimes the opposing attorney’s client(s) will come to the deposition. There may be more than one court reporter present if the deposition is also being filmed. Only one witness is deposed at a time and multiple depositions may be scheduled back to back.

What should I say during my deposition?

Always make sure to consult with your attorney before attending a deposition. Every case is unique, so your attorney is the best person to prepare you for your deposition. However, the following list will almost always apply to any deposition:

  • DO relax. You don’t need to be afraid of the opposing attorney, and your lawyer will be there to step in if needed.
  • DO speak clearly.
  • DO take your time. It is usually OK to take a second or two before answering a question.
  • DO ask the attorney to clarify their question if you don’t understand.
  • DO answer every question truthfully. Remember that you are under oath!
  • DO state the facts as you understand them to be. Usually, it is OK to say that you don’t know something or that you can’t remember.
  • DO NOT give personal opinions.
  • DO NOT guess at information that you don’t know for certain or repeat hearsay.
  • DO NOT answer a question by gesturing, such as nodding or shaking your head. Typically, you are required to give verbal answers.
  • DO NOT lose your temper. Stay calm, and don’t yell, swear, or call people names.
  • DO NOT answer a question that you don’t understand. Usually, you can ask the opposing counsel to clarify or to explain what they mean.
  • DO NOT ask your own questions about the case to the attorneys.

How long do depositions Last?

Depositions can vary wildly in length. Some may only take 30 minutes or less, while other depositions can last hours, even days. The length of the deposition will usually correspond to the complexity of the case and the amount of information that the witness has.

Are depositions legally binding?

Yes! Before you give your deposition, you will be sworn in just like you would at trial. Statements made in a deposition carry the same weight as testimony given at trial in front of a judge and jury.

What about virtual depositions?

Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, most—if not all—depositions are being held virtually. Virtual depositions may feel a little different than an in-person deposition; giving a deposition from your couch or dining room table may not feel like an official litigation procedure. But don’t be fooled by your comfortable surroundings: all the rules are the same for virtual depositions and your testimony counts just as much as if you were giving it in person.

As long as your camera is situated the right way, no one will be able to see you from the waist down. However, you should still dress (at least from the waist up) just as professionally as you would if you were meeting in person. If giving a virtual deposition, make sure to:

  • Test your internet connection and audio capabilities before the deposition starts and give yourself enough time to fix any issues.
  • Search online for guides and/or video tutorials or ask your attorney for help if you are unfamiliar with the technology or software you are using.
  • Find a quiet, private location where you will not be disturbed—other people, including kids, are usually not allowed in depositions.
  • Have adequate lighting—the attorneys need to be able to see your face!
  • Turn off all electronic devices and notifications on your cell phone.
  • Refrain from eating or drinking.
  • Refrain from chewing gum.
  • Refrain from smoking, vaping, or using smokeless tobacco.
  • Log-in early and let your attorney know right away if you have a problem with your connection, audio, or video.

Need Help?

Depositions are just one part of the long and complicated litigation process. A great car accident lawyer, like from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, can help you navigate all the twists and turns of a complicated lawsuit.