In civil cases, the parties to the case, among others, will often participate in depositions. A deposition is one component of the discovery phase in a lawsuit. The discovery phase is often set by a court order and is a period of time in which one party can secure information about its claims and defenses. Many litigants will use a deposition as a means by which they seek out information to help their case.
What exactly is a deposition?
If you have not been involved in civil litigation before, then you may not have any idea what a deposition is or what it entails. Generally, a deposition is a process where a witness is placed under oath and must answer questions posed to him or her by an adverse attorney. While depositions typically take place at the office of a lawyer or court reporter, the testimony being provided carries the same weight as if one were testifying in court. Since a deponent (the witness at a deposition) is providing testimony under oath, it is important for the deponent to be truthful so that they do not commit perjury (it is a crime to lie under oath).
What do I do at a deposition?
Beyond that, it is important to follow some basic rules of depositions and how you should conduct yourself at same:
- Listen carefully to the question.
- Make sure that you understand the question before answering it. Ask the lawyer to rephrase or repeat the question if you do not understand it.
- Pause before answering. This allows your attorney to interpose any objection and for you to think about your answer.
- Let the attorney finish his or her question before you start your answer. Similarly, the attorney should let you finish your answer before asking their next question. By proceeding in the fashion, the court reporter can competently record the questions and answer so that an accurate transcript of the testimony is created.
- Do not guess or speculate.
- Answer the question asked and only the question asked.
- Request a break if you need one. Most lawyers will instruct you to answer whatever question is pending before starting your answer.
- Be prepared. You do not have to guess as to what questions will be asked and cons up with scripted answer, but you should know your case well. For example, if you are the injury victim in a car accident case, then you should be familiar with how the accident occurred and what you are claiming as a result of that accident.
- Be candid. If you do not know an answer to a question, then it is okay to say you do not know. And, if you knew at one point and simply cannot recall the information, then it is okay to say that you do not recall.
- Listen to and follow the instructions of your counsel. If your attorney lodges an objection to a question, then you want to make sure that you stop answering so that he or she can make their objection. And, if your counsel tells you need to do something (i.e., speak up, wait for the questioning attorney to complete his or her questions, not to answer, etc.), then you should follow those directions.
- Dress. Unless instructed by your counsel to the contrary, you should dress the same as you would to attend a professional interview.
- Speak loudly and clearly.
- Do not become argumentative with opposing counsel. If there is an issue to be addressed, then your counsel should address it, not you.
- Be truthful
Hire a lawyer for a deposition
At Henderson Law, we are made up of attorneys admitted to practice law in the State of Maryland and District of Columbia. As part of our civil practice, we regularly take and defend depositions. If you are reading this informational article somewhere other than Maryland or DC, then the manner in which depositions are conducted in your jurisdiction may be different than they are conducted in Maryland and DC, so you should consult with your counsel of your choosing as to how your deposition will be conducted.