By: Dustin Humphrey
Depositions are a common part of nearly every lawsuit. Many people find themselves uneasy about depositions but knowing what to expect can ease anxiety and lead to success.
• A deposition is part of the fact gathering process. It provides opposing attorneys an opportunity to ask questions and discover information about a case. It is also a time for opposing attorneys to evaluate your credibility, composure and how a jury might receive you.
• Depositions typically are held at opposing attorneys’ offices. You, your attorney, the opposing attorney, a court reporter and possibly the opposing party in the case will attend. Anyone with information about the case may give a deposition, including witnesses.
• While the deposition is not held in a courtroom and the audience is typically small, make no mistake, a deposition is a formal procedure. You will be testifying under oath and your answers will be recorded by a court reporter. In fact, testimony taken at a deposition can be used in various circumstances at trial.
• You must be truthful. You risk perjury otherwise. But it’s important you only answer questions that are asked, stick to the facts, and never guess. If you don’t know or don’t remember, just say so.
• Take your time throughout the deposition. The court reporter only records spoken words, not pauses. So don’t feel obligated to fill long silences for the sake of conversation. Some attorneys intentionally remain silent to tempt a witness to volunteer information.
• Be sure you understand the questions asked. It’s perfectly OK to ask for clarification. Pausing before answering a question allows you time to think and make sure you provide an accurate and concise answer without volunteering additional information. These pauses can also help you remain calm.
• Recognize that your conduct is being evaluated. Be professional and composed, even if you become frustrated.
• Before a deposition, you likely will meet with your attorney to discuss the process and how you will prepare. It is important that you follow the advice given in that meeting. We have found that clients who take deposition prep seriously have better outcomes.
A deposition is a significant event and knowing what to expect can make for a smooth, positive experience. There is an old legal saying that our lawyers find true- “you cannot win a case at deposition, but you sure can lose it.” If you are facing a deposition, prepare for it with your attorney seriously. Your case depends on it.
Dustin joined the SBW&H team in 2010, coming to us from one of the oldest firms in Cincinnati. He earned his undergraduate degree from Bellarmine University, summa cum laude, and his law degree from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, where he graduated cum laude. Dustin’s practice focuses on civil litigation, including personal injury law, estate planning, probate, and business law.