by Danae N. Benton

Depositions are a crucial part of the legal process, as they help both parties in a lawsuit gather information, assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case and prepare for trial. The primary objective of a deposition is to gather information while under oath and ensure that a deponent’s statements are preserved and consistent throughout the legal proceedings. “Deponent” refers to any party giving evidence under oath.

Historically, depositions occur in an attorney’s office or a neutral location instead of a courtroom. The participants usually include the plaintiff’s attorney, the defendant’s attorney, a court reporter and sometimes a videographer.

Virtual depositions, also known as remote depositions, have become more common in recent years, especially when in-person meetings are not feasible or safe. They use technology, such as Zoom, to allow participants to conduct depositions from different locations. The following steps will help ensure a smoother virtual deposition:

  • Test the computer, camera, microphone and any other equipment well in advance to address any technical issues. Get comfortable using the video conferencing software or deposition platform being used.
  • Find a quiet and well-lit location with a neutral background for the deposition. Ensure the location environment is free from potential distractions and interruptions—including cell phones!
  • Deponents should dress as they would for an in-person deposition, including professional attire and grooming.
  • While cell phones can be used for most virtual platforms, they are discouraged for various reasons. A tablet, laptop or webcam is best for virtual depositions.

Attorneys will work with deponents to address the logistical and technical aspects in advance so they can navigate the process effectively and ensure the case is presented professionally and competently. Attorneys will also prepare deponents for the deposition. It is essential to be open and honest with them through this process.

Here are a few things a deponent can generally expect to happen:

  • At the beginning of the deposition, they will be sworn in and have to take an oath to tell the truth, just like they would in a courtroom.
  • Next, the defendant’s attorney will ask several questions about the case. These questions can cover various aspects of the case, including the plaintiff’s background, the incident in question, their injuries, medical history and any other relevant information.
  • Both attorneys will be present to represent their clients’ interests. They may object to certain questions or provide guidance during the deposition to ensure their client is treated fairly and that their rights are protected.
  • The court reporter will be present to create a transcript of the deposition. Everything said during the deposition will be recorded, and a written transcript will be available for later use in court.
    • Any statements made “off the record” are not included in the transcript. It is important for a deponent not to discuss anything off the record that they wouldn’t want to discuss on the record.
  • A deponent may be asked to review and discuss documents, such as medical records, photographs or any evidence related to the case during the deposition.
  • Remember that the information gathered during the deposition may be used as evidence during the trial.

It’s essential to answer questions truthfully and concisely during a deposition. While the deposition process may seem daunting, the attorney will help the client prepare and provide guidance to help them navigate the process successfully.