Summary Explanation Of Depositions
Depositions are face-to-face question-and-answer sessions. They usually occur in the office of the lawyer who scheduled the deposition or in some public meeting room.
Parties to legal cases can require other parties, or witnesses, to appear for such questioning.
As the witness, you testify under the penalties of perjury.
Questioners have wide latitude. They can seek not only relevant information that tends to prove or disprove some issue in the case but also information that “could possibly lead” to relevant and admissible evidence.
The result of a deposition is a typed book of questions and answers, a verbatim transcript of all that was said at the deposition.
Parties can read favorable parts of an opponent’s deposition into evidence at trial and a witness who testifies in court inconsistently with earlier deposition testimony can be confronted with the prior inconsistent deposition testimony.
Depositions are a critical part of the litigation process, so you must prepare for them diligently.
More Detailed Explanation Of Depositions
Years ago, litigation was more of a game.
The object of the litigation game was to withhold critical information until the trial and then reveal the information at the best time to destroy your opponent’s case.
Today, things are different.
Now, the emphasis is on full and free pre-trial “discovery.” As the name implies, discovery is how each side learns — discovers — what evidence the other side has.
Depositions are one very common form of discovery.
Under Maryland law, parties can require other parties (or witnesses) to appear for a deposition which is a face-to-face question and answer session.
The witness, sometimes called the deponent, testifies under the penalties of perjury and must answer all lawful questions asked by the lawyer who scheduled the deposition.
Where Will Your Deposition Occur?
Depositions usually occur in the office of the lawyer who scheduled the deposition, in a conference room at the courthouse or in a conference room in some other public building.
Who Is Present At A Deposition?
You and your lawyer are present as well as the lawyer who scheduled the deposition and a stenographic reporter. Any other parties to the case may also be present.
Your job as the witness is to answer all proper questions. Be sure to read my deposition witness tips.
Your lawyer’s job is to make sure that all questions are proper and that lawful procedures are followed. Your lawyer will object to improper questions or procedures in order to protect your rights.
The lawyer who scheduled the deposition asks questions.
The stenographic reporter takes down verbatim everything that is said and then types up a transcript of all that was said.
Any other parties who are present just observe. They do not actively participate. They cannot ask you questions.
No judge or any other impartial arbitrator is present.
What Can You Be Asked At A Deposition?
Quite a bit.
In court, all testimony and exhibits have to be “relevant.” Relevant evidence tends to prove or disprove some issue in the case. In an accident case, relevant evidence would concern such things as who caused the accident and what injuries were caused by the accident.
But at a deposition — and in pre-trial discovery in general — questions do not have to seek relevant information. Questions are proper if they “could possibly lead to” the discovery of relevant and admissible evidence. As you can see, this is a very broad standard.
Click here to see typical deposition questions that you can be asked in an auto accident case.
How To Get Ready For Your Deposition
Again, you should read my deposition tips. You will meet with your lawyer in advance to prepare for your deposition, probably more than once. When you and you lawyer meet, you will be given tips and techniques that will make being a deposition witness easier for you. Your lawyer will also predict the questions that you will be asked. You will probably role play so that you can get a feel for being a witness.
What’s The Point? Why Is Your Deposition Being Taken?
I think there are three main reasons.
First, the lawyer wants to “discover” your version of the facts of the case. The lawyer wants to know what he or she is up against.
Second, the lawyer wants to pin you down to a set of facts so that the lawyer can prepare for trial based on what you said at your deposition and therefore, presumably, will say at trial.
Third, the lawyer wants to assess how good of a witness you will be in court. The lawyer wants to see whether you are truthful and straight-forward, whether a judge or jury is likely to believe you.
What Happens To Your Deposition Transcript?
There are two main uses of the transcript.
First, if you say anything that helps your opponent’s case, they can simply read the helpful part of your deposition into evidence in court.
Second, if you testify in court inconsistently with your deposition testimony, you can be confronted with the prior inconsistent deposition testimony, casting doubt on your competency or credibility. So, if you do not say anything that helps your opponent and you do not testify in court inconsistently with your deposition testimony, the transcript will not be used at trial.
If you would like to learn more about depositions, please contact me.