What Happens in a Deposition: For the Witness? Part 1

By: Geoff Hamby, Trial Attorney/Catastrophic Injury Division

     This is part one of a three-part blog series I’ll be doing on “What Happens in a Deposition?” As a lawyer, it’s easy to forget that most people will never even use the word “deposition” for their entire life. But, once someone becomes a client, a deposition is very likely to be something they’ll have to deal with. One of the first questions I always get from clients when I mention that they’ll probably have to give a deposition is… what happens in a deposition? So, let’s take a quick look at the answer to that question for the witness, aka the person answering the questions.

     For the witness in a deposition, the process actually starts well before the day of the deposition. At Bailey & Oliver, we have every witness come into our office around a week before their deposition is scheduled so we can prepare. These preparation sessions consist primarily of answering any questions the witness has about how the deposition will work and explaining the process of how the questions will be asked. The goals are to calm any fears that the witness has and to make sure they understand the rules of the deposition.

    Deposition 2 On the day of the deposition, there will usually be five people in the room; the witness, the witness’s lawyer, the lawyer asking the questions, the court reporter, and the videographer. All of these people will gather around a table and then the deposition will start. The first things that happen are the videographer announces the details of the deposition and the court reporter “swears-in” the witness or makes the witness promise to tell the truth. Then, the lawyer asking the questions will start.

     During a deposition, the most important thing the witness can remember is to tell the truth; the WHOLE truth. In a trial setting, a half-truth is equal to a whole lie, and the worst thing that can happen to a witness is for the jury to think they are a liar or aren’t trustworthy. After that, the next most important thing is to remember depositions are NOT memory tests. Witnesses are allowed to bring in any materials they want to help them with remembering dates, times, names, or any other details they may be worried about forgetting. We’ve even had witnesses who have sat down in advance and typed up the story of what happened because they were worried they would be confused by the stress and pressure of a lawyer asking them questions.

     The questioning for a normal deposition usually lasts around 3-5 hours with breaks every 45 minutes or so. Parts two and three of this blog series will go into more detail about what the questions look like and what the lawyers do during the deposition, but for the witness it’s pretty simple. Just tell the truth and everything will be fine. 

Bailey & Oliver Law Firm, 3606 W. Southern Hills Blvd., Suite 200, Rogers, AR  72758
(Located just off Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers.)

Related Blogs:

Remote Depositions, June 6, 2016: http://www.baileyoliverlawfirm.com/news/2016/jun/02/remote-depositions/  

Should Depositions be Videotaped? April 13, 2016: http://www.baileyoliverlawfirm.com/news/2016/apr/13/should-depositions-be-videotaped/