Morgan Aufenger – Understanding the Rules of a Civil Deposition in a VA Personal Injury Case
Depositions play a crucial role in the outcome of personal injury cases, but the rules are sometimes unclear. Lawyers need to help the client understand what to expect going into the deposition. Clients need to understand two main areas of depositions beforehand to make the process less daunting: deposition objections and witness conferencing during depositions. Without a sound comprehension of these two topics, confusion can arise that prohibits the best possible outcome of the deposition. Objections must be made in real-time and not after the deposition or question is already over, but witnesses can still answer questions after an objection. Green light, red light, and yellow light are the three types of objections that can occur during a civil deposition. Green light objections are objections that a lawyer can use without much question and are the most common. These objections come from questions that are asked in the wrong form, as a leading question, or something else similar. Red light objections are impermissible for lawyers to use during a deposition. These contain objections about relevance and instructing a witness how to answer a question. Between green and red objections includes a large grey area of yellow light objections. Yellow light objections cover areas from speculation to asked and answered. These respectively mean the question is asking the witness to guess and the question has previously been asked and answered. Understanding how objections work can help ease the stress of going into a deposition for the first time.
Another crucial piece of a deposition is your ability to talk to and receive counsel from your lawyer during this process. While there is no federal rule, case, or evidence that prohibits a lawyer from conferencing with their witness during an examination, the overall law on this is quite muddy. A general rule of thumb is that a lawyer cannot coach a witness on how or what to say to answer a specific question during a deposition, but they may talk to each other during breaks. Depositions proceed as if at trial. It would be problematic if a lawyer talked with the client in the middle of their testimony at the courtroom. Make sure the witness knows what to expect at their deposition and they will find it easier to testify convincingly.