No doubt, you have seen TV shows in which a lawyer asks a series of questions to rattle the witness and get the person on the stand to blurt out a hidden truth that will turn the case. While this kind of courtroom drama may happen from time to time, most lawsuits have much more predictable lines of questioning.
The fact is that attorneys usually know the answers before they ask the questions. This is because the witnesses have gone through the process of deposition before the trial begins. If you are facing a lawsuit, attorneys will likely depose you and your opponent, as well as anyone else who will take the stand.
Why is a deposition important to my case?
While courtroom surprises make good TV drama, they are not good in real life. A witness springing surprise information on the court may leave an attorney unable to protect his or her client. For example, if an employee is suing your company alleging sexual harassment, and your opponent shows up in court with a cell phone recording of one of your managers behaving inappropriately, your attorney will not have time to investigate whether the recording is authentic or doctored in any way. This gives your opponent an unfair advantage.
So, the deposition serves two purposes:
- It allows each side to have a full understanding of the case, the witnesses that will testify and the evidence the other side will present.
- It creates a record of the testimony, using a court reporter and video recordings, to avoid confusion or contradiction during trial testimony.
Essentially, both sides show all their cards in a deposition. Then they take that information and build their cases around it. Your attorney will know who will be testifying on your opponent’s behalf and what those witnesses will say. Your attorney’s job will be to build a case that highlights the strengths of your argument and refutes the weaknesses.
What to expect
If your case involves merely legal matters, a deposition may not be necessary. However, if you and your opponent dispute the facts in a matter, you will likely be deposed. Depositions typically occur in an attorney’s office, not in a courtroom, and no judge is present. Anyone involved in the case may attend, and you may have your attorney with you.
Your opponent’s attorney will ask you questions, which you should consider carefully and answer according to your attorney’s advice, keeping in mind that you are under oath and subject to the same penalties for perjury as you are in an Ohio courtroom. In some cases, the revelations made in deposition prompt the sides to reach a settlement without going forward with a trial.
The length of the deposition depends on the complexity of the case; some are less than an hour while others may last for days. Nevertheless, the deposition is an important building block for your attorney. The information learned through the deposition will help your advocate create a strong case in your favor.