When people hear the word “deposition,” they know that they’re talking about serious legal business. There’s a reason for that: a deposition is indeed serious legal business, essentially an extension of legal testimony simply by location and time. Just because it doesn’t take place in a court of law doesn’t mean that one isn’t obliged to tell the truth or else be accused of perjury.
If you’re going to appear in a deposition, or participate in one in any way, it will help to know what you’re getting yourself into. With that in mind, we’ve prepared five essential facts you need to know before you give your testimony or work on a deposition from the legal end.
1. Depositions are under oath.
A deposition might not take place in a room that looks like a courtroom, but that doesn’t mean that the testimony is not as valid as witness testimony given in a court of law. If you’re under oath, you’re under oath – in a deposition as well as a courtroom. If you’re a witness giving testimony, you’re legally obliged not to lie, or even to cover up the facts: you’re expected to tell the whole truth. Be sure to keep that in mind as you give your testimony.
2. Depositions often happen because of the opposition.
In any given court case, there are two sides to the story – when a lawyer is calling you to give testimony, it’s because they’re building their pre-courtroom case against someone. So if you’re being sued and the litigation goes far enough, you can expect to give a deposition. And the facts uncovered in the deposition will generally be used in the case against you. That doesn’t mean you should hide anything; instead you should be ready to answer anything.
3. Depositions can be good for the trial.
Because depositions occur before the main trial, they can often lead to a number of good things – settlement offers, settlement agreements, shortening the trial’s scope, etc. This is great if you’re the defendant and you need to find a speedy end to your particular case. Depositions often act as a great way to see just how much weight the current litigation has and whether the case will be viable.
4. Deposition testimony can pop back up.
If your case does go to trial, don’t be surprised if the testimony you give at your deposition will later make an appearance – or even be read back to you – during the trial itself. This is a strategy often used by lawyers to highlight an inconsistency in your testimony – which is why you need to have your story straight and remember all the facts.
5. Consistency is key.
Following the above point, it’s important to remember that your deposition can be used later and your consistency will be a key component of your case. Your eyewitness testimony needs to be consistent in order to be taken seriously by a jury, should your case go to trial.