December 23, 2019
By Kent Bevan
You’ve been contacted by an attorney and asked to provide sworn testimony in a deposition regarding a slip-and-fall accident you witnessed earlier this year. You’ve heard the word “deposition” before, and you’ve seen YouTube videos of depositions and lawyer shows on television. But what is a deposition?
A deposition is testimony taken under oath, where the witness is sworn in before a court reporter and then asked questions by one or more attorneys who represent parties to a lawsuit. It typically happens in a conference room or other informal setting – not at the courthouse. The basic purpose of a deposition is to get information from witnesses. The court reporter types every word that is said on the record and then prepares a written transcript, so the witness has the opportunity to review and sign the deposition a few weeks after it’s taken. Some depositions last a short time, perhaps 30 minutes or so, while other may last several hours or even many days. Some courts have enacted rules that limit the length of a deposition.
You should expect the following if you are asked to give a deposition:
- Your most important job is to listen carefully to the questions asked and answer the question truthfully to the best of your memory.
- You may meet with an attorney beforehand to prepare, particularly if you or your company have retained counsel for representation.
- Your attorney will attend the deposition to help you and make objections. A judge will rule on those objections later, but you must answer the questions unless instructed otherwise.
- You should dress professionally.
- If the deposition is being recorded by video, you must pay careful attention to your facial expressions, body language and fidgeting. Your video deposition can be played to a jury, and your nonverbal communication should match your words. A deposition can also be used to impeach the witness, and body language is one method to question your credibility.
Depositions are just one discovery tool the rules of civil procedure allow in a lawsuit. If you’re asked to give a deposition, or if you receive a subpoena to appear for your deposition, you should consult legal counsel. For more information regarding depositions, contact Kent Bevan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (816) 931-2700.