What Is a Deposition?
If you have just received notice of a deposition, you might wonder what a deposition is and what you need to do. A deposition is part of discovery, where both lawyers interview witnesses to determine what evidence may come up in a trial. This allows all parties to prepare their case and determine if they want to settle early or take the case to trial.
The Deposition Hearing
A deposition hearing is where the lawyers of both parties will ask witnesses questions to determine what evidence they may present in their witness testimony. If you are asked to attend a deposition hearing, then you are a key witness who is believed to have important evidence that can affect the outcome of the case. If a witness has no connection to either of the parties in the lawsuit or they are unwilling to testify, the court may issue a subpoena to get them to attend the deposition.
The reasons why a deposition may occur is mainly to collect information before the trial. It gives all parties a chance to learn the facts of the case so they can do further investigation. In a deposition, they will see what witness testimony supports both their case and the opposing case. Additionally, a deposition means that witness testimony is recorded in case the witness is unable to attend trial due to illness or death. The record of the testimony can also hold witnesses accountable and prevent them from changing their testimony at trial. The final reason for a deposition is to help keep the details of the case fresh in the mind of the witnesses. It can take a while for the case to reach trial, and witnesses will have forgotten most of what they saw or heard by then without a deposition.
The Deposition Process
Depending on how important your testimony is to the case and just how much evidence you can present, the deposition process can take an hour, or it can take multiple days. You will only need to stay for your deposition, not the other witnesses.
You will be sworn in, just like you would at trial, and it is important to remember that your deposition is recorded. What you say during the deposition can affect the outcome of the case, so you need to take the time to think about your answers before you speak and not give more information than you were asked for.
Because your deposition can be long, you will be allowed to ask for a break if you need to cool down. Sometimes lawyers can really put the pressure on you in order to elicit an emotional response or get you to say something without thinking. If you feel your blood pressure rising and are worried about your ability to keep your cool, ask to take a short break. Go for a walk, get some food, or whatever else you may need to do to stay calm.
Dress professionally for the deposition, like you would for an office job or an interview. This is an official proceeding, and you need to look and behave professionally. Do not argue with either of the attorneys, and do not react emotionally to what is going on. You are there to talk about the facts.
Do I Need a Lawyer For the Deposition?
You can hire an attorney if you want to, and they may be present in the room with you during the deposition. The attorney can object to questions that may stray from the acceptable line of questioning and protect your interests. After all, you do not want to risk a lawsuit because of something that comes out during the deposition. Depending on how you relate to the lawsuit, you might need to protect sensitive information or risk implicating yourself in the matter.
Your lawyer can help you to prepare for the deposition as well. They can answer any questions you have about what to expect from the deposition process and how it works. They can also help you practice answering deposition questions and teach you how to answer a question without giving extra information. They can coach you through uncomfortable questions and even practice the deposition so you get used to invasive questions and heated situations.