The objective of a deposition is to gather and preserve evidence. They are also significant in evaluating witnesses, gaining admissions, and solidifying trial testimony.
Good communication is vital during a deposition since there is no room for error. Everyone in the room, including the certified court reporter, must play their role to ensure a high level of accuracy and precision when conveying their message.
Here are a few points highlighting why clear communication is essential during depositions:
Eye rolls, head nods, glances, deep breaths, and hand gestures are all part of human nature. However, non-verbal communication is not part of a deposition. While the opposing attorney may interpret and utilize your body language to tailor their questions, the certified court reporter will not record your non-verbal gestures. Even though your gestures may appear in a video recording, juries usually focus on verbal expressions and ignore non-verbal communication.
Interjections and Filler Sounds
Verbal utterances such as uh uh, oh oh, and aha have no place in a deposition process. They can create confusion, yet a deposition’s role is to gather facts and seek clarity. Deponents must be aware using such sounds may cause miscommunication and lead to misinterpretation of vital information. Avoiding filler sounds and interjections can help speed up the deposition since the court reporter does not have to stop and clarify answers every time.
If you are an attorney, you should avoid asking compound questions. Instead, break down your questions into simpler parts that a deponent can answer with a “yes” or “no.” Complex questions are hard to answer, and they often lead the deponent to speculate.
Clients and witnesses must never ramble their answers or deliver long speeches when testifying. The opposing attorney may use this against the client during cross-examination or even question the witness’s credibility.
Circling Back to Previous Queries
During a deposition, answers to unresponded questions asked earlier can come back later after jogging your memory. After all, our memory is unpredictable, and one may never know when they’ll recall certain events. When this happens, the deponent should not revisit and answer the previous question without clearly referencing it. The attorney should advise the client to reference the earlier question before delivering an answer. Doing so will help prevent confusion and misrepresentation of information.
All parties involved have the right to review any documents presented during a deposition before asking or answering questions. Deponents can ask to review documents referenced during the process before delivering their answers. The documents could be medical records, accident reports, and insurance policies. Reviewing evidence before answering questions can help the deponent recall vital information. It will also ensure that the answers provided are facts rather than speculation.
Sometimes it is challenging for deponents to provide the exact details when giving an account of events. It may be hard to recall the precise time, distance, speed, color, size, or date, especially if the deponent went through a traumatic experience. With this in mind, depositions usually extend to the grey area of estimates. When these questions come up, the deponent should verbally indicate that the answers are only estimates and not established facts.
Communicating With The Court Reporter
A certified court reporter plays a crucial role in the success of any deposition process. Your communication with the court reporter must be clear and precise before, during, and after the deposition to avoid any misunderstandings.
Discuss the location of the deposition, the expected duration, and any other important information related to the process. An experienced reporter should be able to address any standing orders you might have, including arranging for synced videos and contacting other professionals such as interpreters and videographers if needed. Since depositions involve a lot of logistics, the more details covered, the better for all parties involved.
Transcript Review and Clarification
Depositions are about precision and accuracy. In essence, you must never submit erroneous transcripts to avoid weakening your case. The good news is that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow changes to be made to a deposition document within 30 days once it is available to counsel. The attorney and deponents can review the transcript to correct errors, clarify jargon, and make the necessary changes. To avoid any discrepancies, the witness must sign a statement highlighting the changes and the reasons behind them.