If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident or negligence by medical professionals, for example, you should explore your remedies under the law. If you have already retained counsel, one element of case preparation is undergoing depositions.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a question and answer session between an attorney and either the plaintiff(s) or defendant(s). The deposition occurs under oath and is used to find out what a witness knows, and to preserve testimony. It can be used at trial to refresh recollection or to ask a witness why trial testimony conflicts with what was said at the deposition.
The American Bar Association, the country’s leading legal organization that monitors officers of the court, has laid out a few important tips for individuals to know before they enter a deposition. Your attorney will surely prepare you ahead of time, but for those unfamiliar with the process, here are a few highlights of things to keep in mind.
Before entering into a deposition, you’ll attorney will likely prepare you by asking you to review documentary evidence and complete a mock Q&A. The guiding principle of our legal system is truth under the law. Therefore, despite walking into what may likely be an adversarial (more likely hostile) environment, where a camera may be pointed at you and you feel like you’re in the “hot seat,” remember the truth is your friend. If you can’t recall something, then that is what you say.
What to Wear?
Appearance and presentation matter, so general advice is to dress as if you are going on a job interview, or something akin to that. Look presentable; it will lend to your credibility and give you more confidence in testifying. Be comfortable but presentable. Professional and credible is the goal.
What to Bring?
In short: Nothing. If you are given documents to review in advance, you should not bring them: the first thing an opposing counsel is likely to ask what documents, if any, you brought and mark that as Exhibit 1. Even your phone may open up questions of unnecessary scrutiny. Leave it in the car. (Example: If you bring a phone, you could be asked to find text messages or emails.) Don’t make opposing counsel’s job easier. Other than car keys and eyeglasses, experts recommend clients bring nothing with them into a deposition room.
What Time Should You Arrive?
Be prompt and, if possible, arrive 15 minutes before the deposition. It gives your attorney a chance to calm your nerves, allows you to get water or go to the restroom. Your attorney will likely make a plan with you ahead of time so you both enter the deposition together. Going in together will give you confidence.
What the Room Will Look Like?
Your attorney will know ahead of time where the deposition will take place and provide you with a lay of the land, so to speak. Most likely, you will find yourself in a conference room at a law firm or other office setting. You should know where you will be seated and feel confident since your attorney will be seated next to you. If the deposition is videotaped, remember you will be the only one in the frame: sit up straight, maintain your composure and speak slowly. Remember, you are both under oath and everything you say will be both recorded and transcribed by a court stenographer. Don’t be spooked by either. Speaking the truth, in spite of a potentially intimidating setting, is your best offense and defense.
What happens first?
Your attorney will explain the procedures and what to expect. Essentially, if you are at the point of giving a deposition, you have already answered many of the questions you are likely to be asked. The videographer will begin by stating that once the camera begins recording, everything said thereafter will be going “on the record”; and the court reporter will begin to type. The videographer will state the name of the case, the date, the time and the address of the law firm. They will then ask lawyers to make their appearances, after which the court reporter will ask you to raise your hand and take an oath confirming you will tell the truth. After the appearances and the oath, opposing counsel will begin asking questions.
Knowing what to expect takes the mystery out of the process so you can focus on telling the truth and achieving the justice you are seeking. For more information, or to speak with an attorney about your personal injury claim, call the law offices of Turner and Turner at (248) 355-1727.