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What is a Deposition?

What is a Deposition and How Can I Prepare?

In civil cases, a mandatory period of discovery occurs after any complaints concerning the case are filed. As your case proceeds, you may be told that you need to schedule a deposition for your case. But what is a deposition?

During the aforementioned discovery process, both the prosecuting and defense attorneys may “depose” witnesses regarding events pertinent to the case. In layman’s terms, this means that people give live testimony in front of others that can attest to the fact that you indeed said what was ascribed to them. You can be questioned by the attorneys from both sides, and your testimony is given under oath, sometimes in the presence of court reporters.

What Are Depositions Used For?

The primary purpose of a deposition is to prevent surprises later on in the trial. Depositions early in the process help both sides learn more about the facts of the case and what the witness recalls about the underlying events. Deposed testimony may be very helpful in securing a settlement instead of having to litigate through trial. It may also help attorneys to better understand how credible witnesses seem and whether a jury is likely to believe what they have to say. If a witness later tries to change their testimony at trial, a transcript of their deposition testimony can be used in cross-examination so that the jury clearly understands how the witness has changed his or her testimony.

How Do Depositions Differ From Court Testimonies?

Unlike other types of testimony, depositions are normally not completed in a courtroom. Rather, depositions are held in conference rooms, most often inside of an attorney’s office. At the deposition, a deponent, or the person being deposed, will be asked a number of questions. He or she may have his or her attorney there, but the attorney’s role at a deposition will be more limited than his or her role would be in court. The questions at a deposition are normally a lot broader than questions a person might expect to be asked in court. A lawyer may make objections to questions that are asked, but the deponent will still need to answer the questions. Judges aren’t present at depositions, and the court will need to rule on objections later using transcripts from the hearings.

How Important is it to Prepare for Your Deposition?

Good preparation for deposition testimony with your attorney is vitally important to your case. The other side’s attorney will be watching you closely to determine how credible a jury would likely find you. They will also want to understand whether a jury is likely to sympathize with you. Preparing for your deposition testimony with your lawyer can help you to come across more positively when you do testify. It will also help you understand what to expect and to alleviate some of the nervousness you might feel about telling your story under oath in court.

When your deposition day arrives, it is of extreme importance that you answer all questions truthfully. If you try to embellish and add information, it will not help your case. Instead, it could harm your ability to recover damages. You should remember that your credibility and truthfulness are being judged by the other side throughout your case process. The more credible they find you to be, the more likely it is that they will make a fair offer to settle your claim. If you have a deposition scheduled in your civil lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney so you can be more than prepared to answer the question “what is a deposition?”


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