If you or your business has been named as a defendant in a civil suit, there is a very good chance you may have to sit for a deposition at some point during the litigation process. Attorneys use depositions as a means of gathering the evidence necessary for a pre-trial disposition of the case and to feel out witnesses likely to testify, should the case go to trial.
New York’s Civil Practice Law allows attorneys to compel adverse parties and others with pertinent knowledge to attend depositions at which they render testimony under oath and provide any relevant documents or other materials in their possession. Every deposition is different and attorneys usually make substantial efforts to prepare their clients. However, there are some general rules that can help witnesses avoid getting into trouble, including:
- Be truthful — Deposition testimony is taken under oath. This means that inconsistent testimony can potentially be used against you at trial. What’s more, lying under oath is a criminal offense.
- Only answer the question posed — It may be tempting to try to explain yourself or qualify your answers during a deposition. However, it is generally to your advantage not to provide any information beyond what the question specifically seeks. Witnesses who provide too much information are doing plaintiffs’ attorneys’ jobs for them.
- Keep emotions in check — Some depositions can be emotional. Some attorneys may even deliberately badger witnesses to prompt an emotional outburst. Letting your emotions get the best of you can not only cause you to reveal sensitive information unnecessarily, it may also demonstrate your weakness as a witness.
- Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” — If you do not know the answer to a question, there is nothing wrong with saying so. Do not base answers on assumptions. Limit your responses to information you know for certain.
Depositions are an important part of the civil process. However, a New York City complex litigation attorney can help you prepare to face them with confidence and poise.