What Is a Deposition, and How Should You Handle One?
While filing a lawsuit is a large part of the personal injury legal process, it is only the first step in getting the compensation you rightfully deserve. Once the lawsuit is filed, a procedure called “discovery” begins. One part of this process, often referred to as a “deposition,” allows attorneys to ask questions of those involved in the lawsuit outside of the defendant or plaintiff, such as witnesses or victims. A deposition involves the taking of sworn, out-of-court oral testimony of either of these parties. Typically, it is reduced into a written transcript for later use during the trial.
Sure, we hear about depositions on television shows, or casually in-passing from friends, family members, and acquaintances, but interestingly enough, many of us have probably never attended one. The purpose of a deposition is to allow attorneys a chance to gather additional information needed for trial. In many cases, attorneys will ask similar questions to both parties to gain a better perspective on the intricacies and circumstances that unfolded. Lawyers also ask questions in a deposition to ensure that you are a reliable witness, who can communicate an accurate account of the incident.
Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after a scheduled deposition:
Before the Deposition
The witnesses or victims of the case, referred to as deponents during this process, wil be served with a legal document, like a deposition notice or subpoena. It will inform you where and when to appear for the deposition. If you cannot attend for any reason, be sure to make contact with the appropriate attorney ahead of time. Keep in mind that failing to appear to a deposition without notice can come with serious consequences.
Depositions are typically held at the offices of one of the attorneys in the case, or occasionally in a third-party location, such as a hotel conference room. Your deposition will be attended by you (the witness), the attorneys involved in the case, and a court reporter. If you’re being represented by a lawyer, who is a part of the deposition, take the opportunity to meet with them ahead of time —it never hurts to practice answering questions; it may even provide you with a bit of relief.
During the Deposition
Giving a deposition can turn into a long, tiresome day. Like jury duty or any other legal responsibility, you should expect to spend the entire day at the deposition, unless told otherwise. Be sure to request time off of work, get a good night’s sleep, and eat a hearty breakfast to power you through a day full of questions and answers.
Once the deposition starts, the court reporter will swear you in. After this happens, you’ll be expected to give your testimony under oath. While answering questions, it’s important that the lawyer fully asks the question before you answer it. The same goes for documents! If a document is presented to you during questioning, read it carefully before answering any questions concerning it. We also suggest taking a break whenever you need to do so — it’s completely acceptable to want to stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee, use the restroom, or even have a brief pow-wow with your lawyer.
After the Deposition
The deposition is finally over! Now, what? Once the deposition draws to a conclusion, the court reporter will process a transcript of the session and provide documents to the plaintiff and defendant’s legal team. This means each side will gain access to identical information. Your job, however, is to read through the transcript and correct anything that the court reporter may have transcribed incorrectly.
This is an important step in the process, as it’s common for a lawyer on the opposing side to exploit certain details of the deposition in respect to their particular stance. While you can’t edit the transcription line-for-line, you have every right to go through it and make sure all the information you relayed is accurate and to the best of your memory. Depositions are an extremely crucial aspect of case preparation, and it’s important to feel comfortable before moving on to the next step of the trial process.
Do you have questions or concerns about an upcoming deposition? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Dallon Bush, a Gonzales lawyer, who is well-versed in personal injury, immigration, and more. You can reach our office in Gonzales at (225) 800-8008 and in New Orleans at (504) 900-9009.