Depositions are a key part of the legal process here in Florida, and if you’re involved in a court case, it is likely that you’ll be required to give one. Whilst they may seem daunting, especially if you don’t understand what they are, keeping yourself informed about the process, as well as how depositions work, will help you to be more at ease.
If you’ve been required to give a deposition, you’ll need to work with an experienced attorney from a local law firm to help you navigate this area of the legal system. Here at The Law Place, our personal injury attorneys, as well as our criminal defense lawyers, are experienced in helping our clients all over the State of Florida to prepare for their depositions. We can support you regardless of your relationship to the case at hand, whatever your circumstance.
We also offer a free consultation to all of our new clients. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, get in touch with us to speak with a member of our team today at (941) 444-4444.
A deposition sometimes called an Examination Before Trial (EBT), is an out-of-court testimony that plays a key role in any court case. Although it doesn’t take place in a court of law, a deposition is taken under oath and will be transcribed by a court stenographer. You could be required to give a deposition if you are a plaintiff, a defendant, or a witness involved in a court case, or if you are going through a legal event, such as divorce.
A deposition will take place during the discovery process of a case and is a question and answer session. During a deposition, a legal professional will ask you questions about the case to take your exact account of events and find out what information you know.
Anyone who is involved in the case can attend a deposition, including the legal representation of both the plaintiff and the defendant. They normally take place at a deposing attorney’s law office or at a neutral space in order to make those being deposed more comfortable.
Is a Deposition the Same as a Witness Testimony?
A legal deposition is similar to witness testimony in that you will be providing an oral statement of your account of events or crimes that you have witnessed. However, the process is more formal. For example, you may be required to give a testimony of events to a law enforcement officer at the scene of a crime or an accident if you have witnessed what occurred. However, when a witness gives a deposition, this will be under oath.
What Is the Purpose of a Deposition?
The purpose of a deposition is to collect all of the facts before a case goes to trial. This process is designed to gather information and make sure that all parties involved in a court case are aware of all of the accounts and facts related to the trial in order to prepare for the courtroom. For example, if a witness gives information in their deposition that incriminates you, your lawyer will be able to prepare a counter-argument before the trial.
In addition, depositions make sure that the accounts of everyone involved are on record. This makes sure there are no surprises when a case goes to trial and also makes sure that no one involved changes their statement once examined.
What Happens During a Deposition?
You Will Be Asked Lots of Questions
During the deposition process, the opposing attorney will have prepared a number of written questions which you’ll be required to answer orally whilst under oath.
You’ll be required to answer questions that cover:
- General background information – To begin, you’ll be asked some questions to establish who you are and to ease you into the process. This can include your name, date of birth, address, employment history, and information about your family situation.
- Medical history – You’ll also be asked about your physical and mental medical history. This is often done in order to accomplish witness credibility. In addition, if you’ve suffered a personal injury as a result of an accident, you’ll be asked about your injuries, as well as any medical treatment you received.
- The crime or incident – If you’ve been through some kind of incident, including a crime, an injury, an accident, or if you’ve witnessed any of these events, you’ll be asked in great detail about your experience and about what occurred.
A Certified Court Reporter Will Transcribe the Deposition
A certified court reporter will type what is being said throughout the entire deposition. Court reporters, or stenographers, will report only the exact words spoken and will not deviate from this. For this reason, a court reporter is often referred to as ‘guardians of the record’ due to the fact that they remain completely impartial and unbiased.
You’ll Review the Transcript
After the deposition takes place, the court reporter will create a written transcript of exactly what was said. This will be verbatim – i.e., every word that was spoken will be taken down exactly. You will then have the chance to review the transcript with your attorney before the trial begins. You’ll be able to make small adjustments if any information is incorrect or has been recorded inaccurately but changing your answers significantly will reduce your credibility.
How to Prepare for Your Deposition Testimony
It can be intimidating knowing that you’re required to sit through a deposition hearing. You will be giving sworn testimony under oath, and any false testimony could result in a perjury charge. Therefore, you want to make sure you’re adequately prepared.
To make sure you’re ready for your deposition, you should:
Find an Attorney
If you’re taking a case to trial or if another individual has filed a lawsuit against you, it is essential that you hire an attorney to support and represent you. You should try to be as specific as possible when hiring a law firm and receiving legal advice. So, for example, if you’re involved in a personal injury case, you should hire a personal injury attorney.
Develop a Good Attorney-Client Relationship
When working with any legal professional, it’s equally important to make sure you have a good working attorney-client relationship as it is to find someone with the right skills and experience. Going through deposition and a court case can be a difficult process, through which you’ll be required to give some quite personal information. Therefore, you want to make sure you’re working with an attorney you can trust.
Practice Answering Likely Deposition Questions
It is your attorney’s job to help you prepare for your deposition by practicing with you. They’ll be aware of the sorts of questions that you may be asked based on the case at hand as well as your role within it. Knowing what questions could come up as well as practicing your response to them, will help limit any surprises and make sure you can answer clearly, concisely, and honestly.
The average person will habitually answer a question conversationally. It’s rare in your day-to-day life that you’re required to give short, to-the-point answers to questions. So, it’s important to get plenty of practice to answer in a way that complies with the legal process.
For example, your lawyer will teach you tactics such as:
- Waiting a few seconds before you answer a question to be sure of the response you will give.
- Staying on topic and being concise. You should answer in as few words as possible to get your point across.
- Avoiding answering statements. It is a natural response to give an answer to statements such as ‘The witness stated that they saw you leave the scene of the crime.’ However, you should not respond to this. You will need to withhold your response until you are asked a question directly. The opposition can use tactics like this to attempt to trip you up and gain information that will be beneficial to their case.
Can I Refuse to Give a Deposition?
If you are asked to give a deposition, you cannot refuse to do so. Otherwise, you risk being held in contempt of court. You will be subpoenaed to attend a deposition, and therefore, you have a legal obligation to take part.
Can I Refuse to Answer a Deposition Question?
You must answer all questions you are asked during a deposition, even if you feel they are too personal. Just like refusing to give a deposition altogether, refusal to answer a question will also result in being held in contempt of court.
During a deposition, you will be put on the spot, and you will be asked some difficult questions – especially if the case is complicated. This can be particularly distressing in personal injury cases for victims who have suffered significant injuries, that are required to relive the events of the accident or are required to justify their medical costs. This is why it is so important to prepare for the sorts of questions you will be asked as well as your responses ahead of time with a qualified lawyer.
Can an Attorney Instruct Me to Not Answer a Question?
According to The Florida Rules of Court Procedure, there isn’t a system in place for attorneys to be able to instruct their clients to withhold an answer to a question. Historically, there are only a few examples of this taking place – and only when the question has violated a legal privilege. So, you shouldn’t expect to be exempt from answering any questions during the deposition.
What Happens If I Don’t Know the Answer to a Deposition Question?
If you do not know the answer to a question, it’s ok to say this. You should give an answer such as ‘I do not recall.’ You should never attempt to guess or estimate an answer to a question, as this could lower the credibility of your statement.
Required to Give a Deposition Testimony? Contact The Law Place Today
Are you involved in a personal injury case, a criminal charge, or are you a witness that’s been required to give a deposition? Then contact The Law Place today to speak with an experienced attorney.
We work around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to support our clients through their cases, helping them to understand their rights and to achieve the best possible case outcome. Contact The Law Place today for your free case evaluation on (941) 444-4444.