Even though it sounds simple, some people forget that they need to understand the question before answering in a deposition. When this happens, the person giving the deposition runs the risk of providing answers to questions that may not actually reflect the answer they have in mind to the question given. Because depositions are a type of testimony, the answers given during the deposition may be presented at trial under certain circumstances.
In this educational article I will discuss depositions in general and why you should be sure to understand the question asked before answering. If you have a deposition soon and have specific questions, speak with your attorney about those questions, as my discussion is general in nature.
WHAT IS A DEPOSITION?
A deposition is a question and answer session that is conducted by the parties to a court case. One of the ways it can be useful in cases is to help narrow the issues for trial. Each side will know the date and time of a scheduled deposition through a Notice of Deposition. The deposition can be held at a law office or another agreed upon location by the parties.
Once at the deposition, you will see people who will be in the deposition room with you. One of these people will be a court reporter. The court reporter is there to take down every word that you say and make a record of the proceeding. In addition, in some depositions there will be a videographer who will use a camera and film the entire deposition. Not every deposition will have a videographer. If you will be on video, more than likely your notice will tell you that the deposition will also be on video.
UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION BEFORE ANSWERING IN A DEPOSITION
One reason you want to understand the question before answering in a deposition is the answer that you give might be used at trial if you hear the question again and give a different answer. How this can play out is the attorney at the deposition will ask you a line of questions on an issue. You do not really understand the question, but you assume what it means, and answer based on a faulty assumption.
At trial, the attorney asks the same question and this time you have a different understanding of the question and answer it a different way than from your deposition. When you give the different answer at trial, the attorney might ask the court if they can use your deposition to show the discrepancy in the answers. A jury may look at this and have concerns about your truthfulness or your understanding of the issues.
Instead of assuming and answering a question that you do not understand, you can always tell the attorney asking the question that you do not understand the question. You can request that he or she rephrases the question in a way that you do understand. This is the better way to handle this situation instead of answering a question you do not fully understand. When you give your answer, the attorney is going to move on as if you meant the answer that you gave. Therefore, you always want to take your time to understand a question in a deposition before answering.
Marcus B. Boston, Esq.
2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815
1-833-4 BABY HELP