Most lawsuits settle. But, there may be a time when the opposing attorney will have you in the hot seat answering questions under oath.
Attorneys have the right to require parties and witnesses to answer questions during the discovery process. It can be a nerve wracking time. Most lawsuits settle because of what happens during the depositions.
The person who is deposed is called the deponent. At your deposition, you are able to have your attorney present. Normally, the other lawyer is also present as is the opposing party. A court reporter will take notes and make sure that the deposition is properly recorded. The deposition can be recorded by tape, typed up with a special transcriber machine, and/or placed on videotape. You will be placed under oath and the attorney for the other side can ask you questions about your case. Your attorney will be able to object to the questions asked, if appropriate. After the deposition is completed, either side can ask that it be typed up (transcribed.) Lawyers can use the transcript from the deposition at trial or in support of motions filed in your case.
Preparing for your deposition
It is important that you are prepared for your deposition. An unprepared person may provide responses which are inconsistent with those previously given on other occasions, and may allow the other attorney to argue that you were not being truthful at your deposition or at trial.
Discuss your concerns with your lawyer before the deposition so that your questions are answered. It is important to:
- Review all other statements that you have made in the past about your case, especially affidavits and other documents which have been filed in court.
- Review your notes, logs, calendars and other paperwork so that you can easily recall the important details such as dates, times and events which previously occurred.
- Discuss subjects which are sensitive that you may not wish to disclose so that both you and your attorney are aware of these matters. Attorneys who learn things for the first time at a deposition may have more difficulty protecting your interests.
Attending your deposition
The most important thing you can do at your deposition is to tell the truth. You are initially placed under oath and you have sworn to tell the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Many cases turn on the issue of credibility. If a lawyer can prove that your answers are untruthful, the judge may disbelieve you at trial.
At the deposition, listen to the questions. Don't answer before the question is completely asked. Think about the question and pause for a moment before answering. This will give you time to insure that your answer is correct. Also, this will give your lawyer time to state an objection, if necessary. Also, this will stop the other lawyer from trying to ask questions and receive responses so fast that you answer quickly without thinking.
Don't get mad at the other lawyer at the deposition. Lawyers may use the deposition as a way to find your weak points so that they can push your buttons at trial and make you angry. Finally, keep cool at the deposition, and generally keep your answers brief and to the point.