The financial stakes can be high when a lawsuit is filed with the court. The parties on either side of the dispute must gather evidence to prove his or her case to a judge or to a jury that will eventually decide which side wins and which side loses. Deposition testimony can be important evidence in a case.
A deposition is a discovery procedure in which a witness or a party to the lawsuit is questioned under oath by one or more of the attorneys for the parties. The deposition testimony is recorded by a court reporter or stenographer who prepares a written transcript of the sworn testimony. All or part of the testimony can be offered as evidence at the trial to prove a disputed fact or for other purposes allowed by law.
If you are asked to appear to give deposition testimony, it is normal to be nervous. There are four tips that can help you get through your first deposition no matter how anxious you might be.
You are more in control than you might think
The fact that you are the focus of everyone's attention at the deposition can be unnerving, but it also gives you quite a bit of control. You have the right to take as much time as you need to think about the question before answering it. You also have the right to ask that questions be read back to you if you are not certain about what was asked.
Appearing at a deposition is usually not by invitation
If you are a party to the lawsuit, your attorney can advise you of your rights, but attorneys usually serve subpoenas on witnesses to force them to appear. A subpoena is an order of the court directing a person to appear at a designated time and location to give testimony at a deposition. A judge can hold a witness in contempt of court for failing to honor a subpoena and appear at a deposition. Now, here is the good news: You have the right to have an attorney representing you at the deposition.
Do not volunteer information
Depositions provide an opportunity for the attorneys for the parties in a lawsuit to gather information. Your job as a witness is to answer only the questions that are asked of you. You are not there to volunteer information. For example, if you are asked to state your age, you should not provide your date of birth unless it was part of the question.
You do not have to answer every question
You might be asked a question to which you do not know the answer. The attorney asking the question might make it seem as though you are expected to have an answer to every question, but the fact is that you are permitted to forget or not know an answer. Just be truthful and honest when answering.
You should talk to an attorney as soon as you are notified about giving deposition testimony. Even if you do not hire the attorney to represent you, getting legal advice about your rights and possible consequences associated with testifying can be helpful.