A deposition is a witnesses’ out-of-court testimony. A deposition can consists of written or oral questions that another attorney asks you during the discovery phase of a civil trial. What you say during a deposition will be reduced to writing and then used at trial.
Because a deposition can have a huge impact on the outcome of a trial, it is very important for you do the right thing. Generally, if you are in a deposition, you should:
- Dress appropriately. Even though a deposition is not estimony before a judge and jury, you should still dress as if it was.
- Ask for a break. Depositions can sometimes be very long, so if you need to take a break, ask for one. Almost every state allows a witness to take a break if they need one.
- Take your time and think. A deposition will be used for or against you at trial, so it is very important for you to take your time, think carefully, and give the correct answers.
- Tell the truth. Assume that the lawyer asking the questions already knows the answers. If you lie, you can end up in more trouble than you care for.
- Answer fully. If you are asked to list something, give the whole list. Don’t try to be smarter than the lawyer by excluding certain elements of an answer.
- Answer simply. Unless the question is for a comprehensive list, keep your answers short, like "yes", "no", or "I don’t know."
Again, because a deposition can have a huge impact on the outcome of a trial, it is very important for you not to do the wrong thing. Generally, if you are in a deposition, you should not:
- Volunteer information. Wait until the lawyer asks for your answer, and limit your answer only to that question.
- Tell the attorney where to find additional information. It is the lawyer’s job to ask you questions and find additional information, not yours.
- Argue with the lawyer. Even though the lawyer who is asking you the questions is not necessarily on your side, that does not mean you can argue or be aggressive with them.
- Discuss anything during a break. If you must talk about what is going on during a break, make sure it is with your own lawyer and where no other persons can hear. Otherwise you might find what you talked about during your break the next topic in the deposition.
- Guess. Only answer questions that you know the answer to. If you find that you have to guess, just say "I don’t know" or "I don’t remember."
If you are subpoenaed for a deposition, it is strongly recommended that you contact a personal injury attorney. The other lawyer may not be on your side, and it is important for someone to be at the deposition who is looking out for your interests. Only an attorney will be able to adequately prepare you for a deposition and help protect your rights.