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Can Your Deposition Testimony Be Used in Court?

Guy DiMartino June 19, 2021

Can your deposition testimony be used in Court? Will a jury heart what you said in your deposition? Hi, I'm Dr. Guy DiMartino a Northwest Indiana personal injury lawyer, and I would like to answer that question for you because somebody recently asked me the same exact question.

First as a reminder, a deposition is a statement under oath. Anybody can be deposed including witnesses and parties to the lawsuit. How a deposition can be used in court depends on whether the person who gave the deposition is a witness or a party to the lawsuit.

Deposition Usage in Court for Parties

If you are the plaintiff, defendant, petition or respondent, the deposition can be for any purpose. It can be used substantively, which means anything that was said within the deposition can be read or played for the judge or jury.

The deposition testimony can also be used for impeachment. a witness or party is impeached when the testimony that they give in court is different than the testimony they have given in their deposition. For instance, if you say the traffic light was red, when you're in the courtroom, and you said that the traffic light was green in your deposition, then the other lawyer, or can bring up the fact that the testimony is different. This is called impeachment.

Deposition Usage in Court for Non-Parties

Say you are a witness to a Michigan City car accident and you gave a pretrial deposition. Then your deposition testimony can only be used for impeachment purposes if you show up for trial. However, if you are unavailable for excused for the trial, the deposition testimony can be used as a substitute for in court testimony. We see this a lot of times with witnesses who live out of state, expert witnesses and doctors, who can't leave their offices or the hospital to come to court.

Typically, for professional witnesses like experts or doctors, the deposition will be captured on video before trial and played for the judge or jury in the courtroom. The jury will get an instruction from the judge that will tell them that they have to accept the testimony just as if the witness was present in front of them testifying at that moment.

If the witness is live at trial, then their deposition testimony can be used for a limited purpose. The first is for impeachment purposes as described above. The second is to refresh the witness' recollection if they forgot something at trial. Under this circumstance, the witness will be directed to the page where they gave testimony regarding the forgotten issue, they will be asked to read the testimony, and asked if that refreshed their recollection. If so, the witness will be able to testify from their memory. The witness is not allowed to just read their prior testimony because that would be considered hearsay.

Whether you are a party or a witness to a lawsuit, deposition testimony is one of the most important acts you will take, which is why it is important to prepare for deposition and take it seriously.