One term that often surfaces in legal discussions is deposition. Contrary to popular belief, a deposition is not a courtroom drama but a critical part of the pre-trial discovery process, where witnesses give sworn testimonies that are often recorded for later reference.
In this article, we will define the concept of depositions and offer insights into the do’s and don’ts of a deposition in Indiana.
What Is the Main Purpose of a Deposition?
A deposition is a fact-finding opportunity for attorneys. It allows them to gather information, clarify uncertainties, and build a robust case approach.
During a deposition, a witness —often referred to as the “deponent”— is questioned under oath by attorneys representing the parties involved in the case. Their responses are recorded by a court reporter for later use, creating a written transcript that will serve as evidence during the trial.
Attorneys use depositions for several reasons. On the one hand, depositions are useful for evaluating witnesses’ credibility and discovering new evidence. Additionally, they serve to lock in a witness’ testimony, making it more difficult for them to try and change their story later during trial.
The Discovery Process in a Deposition
Depositions are part of the discovery process, and enable both parties to get the necessary information to either prove or disprove different elements of the case.
During a deposition, attorneys can ask a wide range of questions, as long as they are reasonably estimated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. On the other hand, the deponent is required to answer truthfully, under oath, and can be held accountable for any false or misleading statements.
In Indiana, the rules governing depositions are outlined in the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure. Specifically, Rule 30 stipulates the conditions under which to take a deposition, the scope of questioning, and the responsibilities of the parties involved.
What Not to Say at a Deposition?
While a deposition is a fact-finding tool, exercising caution in your responses is crucial. In general, avoid making absolute statements like “I never” or “I always,” as they can be easily disproved and harm your credibility. Here are some additional things to avoid during a deposition:
- Guessing or speculating: If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s better to say so rather than guessing or speculating.
- Volunteering information: Witnesses should only answer the specific question asked and avoid providing additional information that may not be relevant to their case.
- Arguing with the attorney: It’s important to remain calm and collected, even if you feel the attorney is being aggressive or unfair.
- Discussing the case with others: Witnesses should not discuss the case or their testimony with anyone during breaks in the deposition, as this could be seen as an attempt to influence their answers.
Types of Cases in Indiana Which Require a Deposition
Depositions are commonly used in various types of cases, including personal injury cases, civil lawsuits, and even criminal cases.
For example, in personal injury cases (like car accidents, slip and falls, or medical malpractice), depositions are often used to establish the extent of injuries, the circumstances leading to the accident, and the liability of the parties involved.
On the other hand, in a product liability case, for instance, depositions are often used to gather information about the design, manufacturing, and marketing of the defective product. Additionally, wrongful death cases use depositions to help establish the cause of death, responsible parties, and damages suffered by the surviving family members.
We Can Help You Prepare a Deposition in Indiana
Preparing for a deposition can be a nerve-wracking experience, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. An experienced attorney can guide you through the whole deposition process, from understanding the types of questions you’ll face to the legal implications of your answers.
If you’re facing a deposition in Indiana, don’t hesitate to reach out for expert legal support. At Christie Farrell Lee & Bell, we have over 40 years of experience handling personal injury cases in Indiana, and we will be happy to assist you with your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!