A deposition is where a witness gives testimony under oath. It is recorded by a court reporter so it can be used as evidence in court at a later date. Your deposition usually occurs in the office of your lawyer and there is no judge or jury present, just you, the lawyers, and the reporter. But do not be misled by the informal nature of the surroundings. For all practical purposes, there is very little difference between giving a deposition and taking the witness stand at trial.
Purposes of a Deposition
The opposing side will want to take your deposition for several reasons. First, they want to know what facts you know. They will want to know every fact, good or bad for their side of the case. A deposition also pins you down to your version of what happened. This does a couple of things. It keeps them from being surprised at trial. The other attorney is also hoping you change your statements at trial so they can attack your credibility. This is known as impeachment. If a lawyer catches you saying something different in trial, they can then argue to a jury that you are not truthful. Finally, attorneys also want to observe what kind of witness you will make. In a personal injury case, you are the most important witness. If you appear confident, informed and unshakable while having a very sympathetic life story, the other lawyer will be discouraged about going to trial. Defense lawyers usually will write a whole report letter to the insurance company just on your deposition and what kind of witness you will make. It is that important.
How to Prepare for your Deposition
The best personal injury lawyers will meet with their clients ahead of the deposition to prepare them. We will spend at least 3 hours with each of our clients. We discuss what the other side is looking for and then role play. In more high profile cases we will actually prep our clients for several days, including calling in friends (who are strangers to our client) to take a mock-deposition under the same stress as a real one.
People often ask is it unethical to coach a client for deposition. We cannot tell you what to say. You must tell the truth. What we can help with is how you say it. Depositions are really an exercise in listening. You should only answer the question asked. For example, if the attorney asks “Do you know what time it is?” you should say “Yes.” Most people want to say “Yes, it is …” But that was not the question asked. Make the other attorney do their job and ask the follow up question.
Prepare for Alpharetta personal injury depositions.
Clients also have a natural tendency to want to volunteer information they think helps their case. A deposition is not the time to do it. Your attorney will pull that information out of you at trial and they are friendly to your case. The other side is not there to help your case, they are only digging for things to hurt your case.
These are but a couple of ways to prepare. We provide information for our clients that lays out all the techniques for giving a good deposition. Hopefully your attorney is helping you be the best witness possible for your own case.