First, what is a deposition?

It's a question and answer session.
Lawyers also call it an 'examination before trial'.
It takes place in our office.
In our conference room.

When you bring a lawsuit against a doctor or hospital, the attorney who represents the people you sued have a right to ask you questions about your case. They can ask you what happened. They can ask about your injuries. They can ask how you're feeling now. Importantly, they can and will ask about those activities you are no longer able to do now because of what was done wrong to you.

This is also know as pretrial testimony.

The answers you give represent your testimony.
But there's a difference when answering questions in our office compared to in court when your case goes to trial.
In our office, during your deposition, there's no judge there.

There's also no jury there in our conference room.
It's just you, me, the attorney who will be questioning you and a court stenographer.
The court stenographer is there to record all of the questions you are asked and all of the answers you give.

Believe it or not, the answers that you give in response to the opposing attorney's questions, carry the same exact weight as if you are testifying at trial.

During this questioning, the defense attorney is likely going to ask a question that is improperly worded.
In that instance I will say "Objection. Please rephrase your question."
Then, the attorney will likely ask another question that is similarly phrased.

Or, maybe the attorney asks you a question that I feel is inappropriate.
"Objection! That question is palpably improper!" I say in response.
There are instances during your deposition where I will make objections.

You should also know that there are only two instances where I can tell you NOT to answer the question.
The first is where the opposing attorney wants to know about conversations that you had with me.
Those are confidential.

Lawyers call those conversations 'privileged' which means I am permitted to tell you not to answer the question.
The other type of question I can tell you NOT to answer is one that is so  off the wall and bizarre that lawyers would call that 'palpably improper'.

Since this is the discovery phase of your lawsuit, each side is given wide latitude to learn details of your life that often have little to do with the actual claim you are currently bringing. Your attorney has an obligation to voice objections when he believes the question is improper.

"Objection, that question is irrelevant!"
"Objection, that calls for speculation!"
"Objection, that's hearsay."

There are many more types of objections that I can put on the record.

Some people think that just because an attorney raises an objection during their deposition, that they don't have to answer the question.

Actually, in New York, that would be incorrect.
In civil cases involving claims of medical malpractice, accident cases and wrongful death cases, you are required to answer all questions, except the ones I mentioned above.
That means that I am still required to voice my objection about a particular question, but you are then required to answer it. Whether your answer will be able to be used by my opponent during your trial is a question to be decided by the trial judge.

That's why I will often say "Objection! You can answer the question..."

You still have to answer the question over my objection.
I have now preserved my right to raise the objection later at trial.
Also, if the defense tries to ask the judge to dismiss your case before it ever gets to trial and tries to use your pretrial testimony against you during this request, I can now let the judge know that the question was improper and made my objection at the time the question was asked.

Want more information about objections during deposition and at trial? I invite you to watch the quick videos below...

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer