If you have ever seen a court proceeding on television, or heard the media report on the status of a trial, you likely have heard the term “deposition”. If you are like most people, you may not know exactly what a deposition is, or if it will apply to you in the event of your own legal matter arising. At Daic Law, we want you to be informed about common legal matters so that if you are involved in a legal case, you know what to expect. Read on to learn more about depositions, what they are, how they are used, and if they could apply to your case.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is an oral witness statement that is taken under oath. Depositions are taken during the discovery phase of a case, the period where both parties gather evidence and information. There are two primary purposes for depositions, including:
1. To gather information from the witness directly
2. To preserve this information for trial
Part of trial preparation is understanding the testimonies that may be provided during the trial, and by whom. Conducting depositions is one way for attorneys to preview the information witnesses have, as well as determine in advance what their testimony will be.
Depositions are legally bound testimonies that must be signed off on by a witness and/or notary public in order to be valid. Testimony given during a deposition is under oath – the same as if the witness were providing testimony in court, in front of a judge and/or jury.
What Happens at a Deposition?
Depositions may seem complex, but the process is really simple, and for most people, is not uncomfortable at all. Most often, depositions are conducted at an attorney’s office or other scheduled location where applicable parties can have privacy. A court reporter will attend the deposition to preserve the entire meeting.
Depositions are most often conducted in person, but may be videotaped if the witness is unwell or is out of town. The witness does not ask questions during a deposition, but rather responds to prompts to the best of his or her ability. It is crucial that the witness is honest and forthcoming with information – positive or negative – as any claims will be investigated.
What Cases Require Depositions?
Depositions are most often required when there is a lawsuit filed. Cases involving facts or basic legal matters often do not require depositions since witness testimony may not be applicable. For many lawsuit cases, however, depositions are required and extremely beneficial.
When a lawsuit is filed, one party (plaintiff) makes claims against another party (defendant) – often that the defendant harmed the plaintiff in some way. Cases like personal injury, medical malpractice, insurance claims, and breach of contact all may require depositions, which will help the attorneys involved paint a clearer picture of the facts of the case. Legally binding depositions also help judges avoid a “he-said/she-said” scenario with no legal basis to support the claims.
Helpful Tips for a Successful Deposition
If you are a witness in a legal matter and are required to attend a deposition, you may want to consider the following:
• Depending on the case, a deposition can take as little as a few minutes, or may require several meetings over the course of days, weeks, or even months.
• Depositions are serious legal matters and should not be taken lightly. Always provide information to the best of your knowledge, ask questions if you do not understand a question, and listen carefully.
• If you do not know the answer to the question, then say that up front.
• Do not allow the attorney asking questions to persuade you or lead you to answer in a particular direction. Also, do not generally agree or disagree with a series of statements or review of facts. That can lead to your unknowingly providing inaccurate or inconsistent information.
• Depositions are taken under oath and are legally binding. That means if you make false statements during this process, you may be subject to civil or criminal penalties.
• If you do not have an attorney, it may be advisable for you to contact one before attending a deposition to find out more about what you can expect, as well as what you should know about your individual situation.
Perhaps the best tip for a successful deposition is to remember that you do not have to face legal matters alone. If you are concerned about your rights, or are considering pursuing a personal injury, business litigation, insurance recovery, or consumer protection case, contact Daic Law to find out how we can help you understand and manage your legal situation. To contact our office, fill out our online form, or call us to schedule a no-obligation consultation.