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Surviving a Deposition as a Witness

Clients often benefit from taking an active role as a member of their own legal team, but depositions are an area that can force clients to take a particularly prominent position. Depositions are procedurally-authorized interviews that allow the lawyers to ask questions of the other side’s witnesses, including the other side’s client. These sorts of interviews can often be stressful for the witnesses. They can last for hours, and witnesses with a stake in the case, such as the owners of a business facing a lawsuit, are often worried about saying something that will come back to cause problems later. Fortunately, there are certain tips people can abide by to make the deposition process easier.

How Depositions Work

Depositions are a reasonably standardized affair. The person being deposed, the witness or party to the case, is brought into a conference room somewhere with both of the lawyers, as well as a court stenographer to record the deposition. There may also be a videographer there to record as well. The deposition itself is just a question and answer session at which both lawyers are present. The lawyer on the other side will ask the witness questions, which the witness has to answer. There may also be points where the client’s lawyer will object to questions that the other side is asking. However, these objections do not prevent the person being deposed from having to answer the question. Instead, they are just recording the objection for later in case it becomes important, at which point the judge can sort it out.

The length of depositions varies greatly depending on the scale of the case and the witness in question. Some can last for days, others just hours. In general, they will not last for more than one business day at a time. Witnesses being deposed may also request things like water, lunch breaks, and bathroom breaks to make the process easier.

Tips for Handling Depositions

There are two cardinal rules that people being deposed should follow: “answer the question,” and, “tell the truth.” The first rule is surprisingly difficult because answering deposition questions is not like having a normal conversation. In normal conversation, people often volunteer more than is necessary. For example, if someone gets stopped on the street and asked “Do you know the way to the bank?” The ordinary response is to start giving that person directions. However, in a deposition, that is a yes or no question. Either the witness does or does not know the way to the bank. Giving out more information than that just makes the opposing counsel’s job easier. This is an especially big problem when witnesses start volunteering more information then they have by speculating about things that they do not actually know. Saying “I don’t know,” is perfectly acceptable in a deposition, as long as it is the truth.

Witnesses should also be careful of open-ended questions like “Why did you do that?” People often get so concerned with avoiding giving out information that they do not remember to tell the whole truth. If the answer to “Why?” is long, that is alright. It is better to give the whole answer in the deposition than to contradict the deposition testimony later.

Depositions can be stressful experiences for clients, but working with skilled attorneys can make it easier. If your company is involved in a legal dispute, contact a Florida business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today.

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