Focus on the Law: Giving a Deposition

By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

A deposition is a statement given under oath by either a fact witness or an expert witness before trial.  Depositions are usually given in an attorney’s office. An audio recording is made and sometimes a visual recording is taken. A court reporter may be present as well. If you are a party to the lawsuit, your deposition will most likely be taken at a time and place agreed upon by the parties. If you are not a party to the lawsuit, you may receive a subpoena to appear at a certain time and place to give your deposition. A subpoena is a court order and the failure to obey it could result in penalties being imposed upon you by the court. If you have been subpoenaed to give a deposition you can hire your own attorney to appear with you but that is not required. If you are a party and are represented by an attorney, your attorney will most likely help you prepare for the deposition. This will involve going over probable questions you will be asked and reviewing files and paperwork you may possess relating to the case.

It is important to remember that the most important thing to do in a deposition is to tell the truth. Your credibility is one of the most significant ways that your testimony will be judged. If you get caught in a lie, any other true statements you make will be called into question.

Other tips to remember: Answer the Questions.  Make sure you listen carefully to the questions and that you understand each question before you answer it. If you do not know the answer, just say so. Do not guess or assume the answer. Listen to the question and then take a breath before you answer it. If your lawyer needs to object to the question this will give your lawyer a chance to do so. Don’t Volunteer. Generally it is better to not include information that is beyond the scope of the question.

Some cases may merit a different approach. You should discuss this further with your attorney. Don’t Argue or Debate. It is easy to become frustrated with repetitive questions or questions that you think are unnecessary. You need to be patient and try to be civil. Losing your cool makes you look bad and increases your chance of making mistakes in your testimony. Do not say things out of frustration that you will regret later.  Don’t Be Rushed. The attorney may ask you to read a document and then answer questions about it. You may feel pressured to rush. You are entitled to take your time. You alone are responsible for the answers to the questions posed to you and you want them to be correct. Take a Break. No one wants you to be physically uncomfortable so ask to take a short break if you need one.

After your deposition is done, a transcript may be prepared. If so, you have to right to review the transcript to look for transcription errors. Take advantage of this because clerical mistakes could make a difference in the case. You should always hire an experienced attorney if you need legal services. My office number in Knoxville is (865)539-2100.

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