Whenever you see a movie or even a live trial and someone is testifying on the stand, that person has almost always answered the exact same questions previously in the case during a deposition. A deposition gives both sides an opportunity to see what witnesses have to say and how they’ll say it.
During an ongoing lawsuit, the court can serve a subpoena requiring you to give a deposition. Depositions are court-mandated statements that you would serve as evidence. If you get one, it can be understandably daunting since you will essentially be preparing to testify under oath.
For some, that can be stressful and may even lead them to say the wrong thing during the deposition. However, proper preparation can smoothen the process and make it go seamlessly. Here’s everything you need to know about a deposition.
Defining Depositions: How Do They Work?
Depositions are important out-of-court statements during cases that need more evidence. If you are a key witness and are connected to any party involved in the lawsuit, you are the deposed or deponent in the situation. However, being a third party in the case can prompt the court to serve you a subpoena, legally compelling you to offer your testimony at a specific schedule.
Depositions take place before trials, specifically during the discovery phase. This stage is when both sides of the involved parties exchange evidence and information to ensure everyone is on the same page. However, witness statements may be necessary, which is where your role begins. Essentially, depositions exist to obtain additional information beyond common methods.
Once the deposition ends, all parties involved sign sworn statements of accuracy to affirm that everything they stated in court was true. All information from a deposition is important as it can determine how strong a case is and whether a trial is necessary or if the parties can reach a settlement. Regardless of the outcome, everyone involved can prepare accordingly.
Where Do Depositions Occur?
Depositions usually occur at a lawyer’s office or in the courtroom. As a witness, lawyers will ask you questions that you must answer honestly. You cannot give opinions or speculate about answers as they must be facts that you know for certain. If you are unsure about your answer to a specific question, you must say so and then move on to the next one.
Traditionally, you would take a deposition under oath where a court reporter will record or transcribe your statements. They will use these transcriptions as evidence in future trial proceedings as needed.
These days, many depositions occur online, following the surge of remote work and meetings through video conferencing platforms. When cases hold depositions through Zoom, they can easily record and use tools to transcribe your witness statements, simplifying the court reporter’s job.
Why Are Depositions Necessary?
Understanding the main reasons for holding depositions may help you better prepare for the situation. The main purposes are to:
- Obtain information about the case: Lawyers will ask questions and you, as the witness, will answer them. Depending on your role or proximity to the involved parties, your statements could give the court information that will potentially be relevant to the case, allowing it to progress.
- Give each party a chance to evaluate their stances: As a third party, your statements can allow each side of the parties involved to prepare for the case and evaluate their stances. Your input may be valuable as it could contain relevant facts that affect the outcome.
- Establish potentially important evidence: Your answers to the questions as far as you know can serve as evidence in a case. Either party can cite your answers as the bases for their approach or even present them if it helps them.
- Determine credibility of a witness or evidence: Involved parties can use your sworn statements to establish a witness’ credibility or an evidence’s validity to help them decide whether the presented information is valid. If your statements can back up other witnesses or evidence, it will be a great help in the case’s resolution.
- Discredit arguments from either party: Your statements can also be useful in discrediting any evidence from either party if it goes against what you said. This purpose is especially relevant if you are a witness to a crime or event where your statements can provide alternative perspectives to the parties involved.
How Can You Prepare for a Deposition?
Prior preparation when attending a deposition can help you navigate the process easily. Here are some things to remember before participating in a deposition:
- Review all documents: Whoever requests your statements will provide documents relating to the case. Be sure to read through all of them to understand how you fit into the narrative. Take personal notes about what you read as they may be helpful when you attend the scheduled deposition hearing.
- Organize your thoughts: Based on what you read about the case, you can usually get an idea about the kind of questions either party can ask you. Anticipating these can help you stay calm. Meanwhile, written depositions may be more helpful than attending a deposition hearing. With a written deposition, you can answer the questions like a test paper and just submit them within a certain time.
- Eat beforehand and bring snacks: Traditional depositions can take several hours to complete. Sometimes, it reaches seven hours. Just to be safe, it would help if you expected the deposition to take long and bring food or snacks with you. Take breaks during the hearing as well so you can keep a clear head and concentrate well when the lawyers ask you questions.
What To Do During a Deposition?
As a witness or a third party, it is important to know your place and stick to your role. As much as possible, avoid doing more work than what each party expects of you. Otherwise, you could compromise the proceedings and affect the outcome. To ensure that everything goes smoothly, here are some tips to remember during your deposition:
- Be honest: Depositions are sworn statements, meaning that you must answer questions as truthfully as possible. Lying during a deposition is illegal and will also damage your credibility in court if it finds out.
- Answer accurately: When answering questions, make sure you are giving accurate, unbiased information. Avoid speculation or guessing answers to any questions. If you are unsure, you can ask the lawyer to clarify, rephrase, or just honestly say you don’t know.
- Stay calm: Nervousness is understandable, especially when you are dealing with legal processes. However, try to stay as composed as possible. This way, you can answer questions properly and make a good impression on the lawyers.
Get Started: Prepare for a Deposition With Drafted Legal
Depositions are important court-mandated statements that determine facts related to a given case. They can take place in courtrooms or remotely through video conferencing platforms. You must be clear and truthful with your statements. Above all, preparation is key when attending a deposition.
At Henderson & Henderson, LLC., we have lawyers who prepare legal templates for individuals and small businesses. Having legal templates on hand will be helpful when the court orders you to submit your sworn statement as a witness or deposed as you can have it go through a process that works in your favor and prepare properly. Browse our collection at Drafted Legal.