What to Expect at a Deposition: Part 2

The first part of this two-part post was published August. We hope you enjoyed it, dear readers! As promised, please read on for the second and final installment for some procedural insight into civil depositions and information about how they work from the point of view of a court interpreter. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, and I (Judy) might come back with a third column at some point in the future.

  • Most civil depositions can informally be divided into three parts in addition to the admonitions portion. Before any formal questions are asked, but after the parties (the deponent and the court interpreter) have been sworn in, the deposing counsel will go over a list of rules and procedures.
  • During the admonitions portion, the deposing attorney will remind the deponent that he/she needs to tell the truth, that the oath he/she took is the same as the one sworn in court, that lying constitutes perjury, etc. The deponent is then reminded to answer all questions verbally and to refrain from nodding, as that won’t show up in the transcript, which the court reporter will compile. The deponent has to acknowledge that he/she understands all these rules.
  • The first portion of all depositions revolves around getting a deponent’s background information. Issues that are discussed usually include full name (be sure to write these down for the court reporter), other names used, birth date, social security number (to which the other party occasionally objects), immigration status (objection!), work history, previous job responsibilities, current and previous addresses, educational background, etc. I am always amazed at the great detail that deponents are expected to give. Mostly, the deposing attorney is trying to establish a person’s identity, but in all honesty, I don’t remember what I had for lunch last Wednesday, not to mention my exact employment dates or zip codes from 10 years ago. You will get a lot of ‘’I don’t know” and “I don’t remember” responses here.
  • The second portion of any deposition usually has to do with the __________ (motor vehicle accident, slip-and-fall, etc.) in question. After you have done a few of these, you will begin to see a clear pattern of questions, and even highly experienced attorneys will sometimes have a prepared list of questions to make sure they don’t miss anything. For car accidents, there will be a lot of questions about speed, where were you, where were you going, in which direction, how many lanes are there, when did you first see the other car, did you have time to brace yourself, did you talk to the driver of the other car, did you call the ambulance, did the police come, what was the damage to your vehicle, how did you leave the scene of the accident, etc. Again, many deponents will not have the answers to these questions, and sometimes the deposing attorney will press the issue, making them seem a bit like pit bulls. It’s occasionally a bit painful to witness, and if the deposing attorney is too aggressive, the deponent’s attorney might object and claim that he or she is harassing the deponent.
  • The third and final part of most of the civil depositions I’ve done will focus on the deponent’s medical treatment, including doctors visited, dates of the visits, treatment received, frequency of treatment received, medications taken and/or prescribed, length of treatment and questions about whether the treatment has been effective. Deponents are notoriously vague in their answers to this section (as usually instructed by their counsel), but deposing attorneys have very specific questions. Oftentimes, deponents are asked to rate their pain on a scale from 1 to 10, which many are either reluctant or unable to do. This section can include some quite repetitive-sounding question. 
Do you feel ready to interpret at civil depositions? I hope you find them to be as rewarding as I do. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on civil depositions. Feel free to share what you know by leaving a comment. 


Jennifer Bikkál Horne on September 26, 2012 at 6:48 PM said...

I have gotten a few offers for depositions and have always declined because I did not have a good idea as to what to expect, and I have no experience with legal interpreting.

Your post sure helps out a lot, and I feel as though I might actually accept the next offer.

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