Legal Jargon Explained:
What is a “Deposition”?

Navigating the legal world can often feel like venturing into a foreign land with its language and customs. Extensive terminology and jargon can alienate individuals unfamiliar with legal language, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and excluded. We believe that legal information should be accessible and understandable to everyone. A good law firm will help its clients understand everything they need to know during a legal proceeding. That is why we proudly offer this monthly series of unpacking legal jargon.

This month’s edition will explore what a deposition is, what happens during a deposition, and what you should and should not do during one.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is a crucial element of the pre-trial discovery process in legal proceedings as they allow both parties to gather information and evidence for their case.

Depositions allow attorneys to question witnesses or parties involved in the case, including plaintiffs, defendants, experts, and other individuals who may have relevant knowledge or information. It involves the sworn testimony of a witness or a party to a lawsuit, given under oath and recorded for later use in court. It is a formal interview conducted outside the courtroom, usually in a lawyer’s office or a conference room

Through depositions, attorneys can identify weaknesses or inconsistencies in the opposing party’s testimony, which can be used to challenge their credibility and strengthen their case. Depositions often reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a case, which can lead to more informed settlement negotiations between the parties involved. They also create a permanent record of witness testimony. If the witness’s statements change or contradict themselves later, the deposition can be used to impeach their credibility. 

Graphic explaining what to avoid during a deposition. Graphic explains one should avoid volunteering any information other than answers to specifically phrased questions.

Do’s and Don’ts of a Deposition

If you are questioned as a witness in a deposition, you must be prepared and understand how to navigate the process effectively.

DO Tell the Truth: Be honest and provide accurate information to the best of your ability. Lying or providing false information can have serious legal consequences and undermine credibility.

DON’T Volunteer Information: Answer questions directly and concisely without offering unnecessary information. Be mindful to refrain from going off tangents or providing details beyond what is asked. Stick to the facts and avoid giving opinions unless specifically requested

DO Listen Carefully: Pay close attention to the questions being asked. Take your time to understand them before providing your response. Feel free to ask for clarification if you’re uncertain about a question

DON’T Guess or Speculate: If you don’t know the answer to a question or cannot recall specific details, it is acceptable to say so. Avoid guessing or speculating, as this can weaken your credibility and potentially harm your case. Additionally, Avoid making assumptions or accusations about the attorney’s intentions or motivations. Focus on answering the questions truthfully and avoid engaging in personal confrontations

DO Take Breaks if Needed: Depositions can be lengthy and mentally draining. If you need a break to collect your thoughts or regain composure, don’t hesitate to request one. You have the right to take breaks throughout the process. Request a break if you need to consult with your attorney before answering a particular question. Your attorney can provide guidance and ensure your rights are protected during the deposition.

Participating in a deposition as a witness can be an intimidating experience, but with knowledge of the dos and don’ts, you can navigate the process more confidently. You can contribute to a smooth and effective deposition while protecting your rights by being truthful, attentive, and respectful.

If you have any specific concerns or questions regarding your role in a deposition, consult with an experienced attorney who can provide personalized guidance. At Deratany & Kosner, we assist you every step of the way.

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