What Is a Deposition?
Before a trial happens, all parties named in a lawsuit have a right to find out more about the case and uncover evidence. This process is called discovery. During discovery, each party will try and uncover physical evidence like documents as well as taking the statements of witnesses before the trial. A deposition is the legal term for taking a witness’s statement under oath.
The circumstances of the case will determine whether depositions are necessary or not. Generally, a deposition is a vital evidence if the facts of the case are the point of contention rather than the legalities.
What Is a Deposition?
During a deposition, the lawyers will ask the witness questions about the case. The purpose of the questions is to:
- Find out what the witness knows about the case
- Preserve the witness’s testimony for trial
All parties will conduct a deposition so that they are aware of what information the witness may give during the trial. It is very unlikely that one party will be surprised by witness testimony in a trial.
The purpose of a deposition is not to strengthen your case; it is a fact-finding mission. You want to know what information each witness has so that you are not surprised at trial and can prepare a defense for their testimony. During the deposition, the lawyers will uncover the facts of the case and look for information that will damage their case along with information that will strengthen their case.
How Does a Deposition Work?
A deposition will happen in the attorney’s office with a court reporter present. In some cases, all parties will be present at the deposition and ask questions of the witness. If the deponent (witness) is ill and it is uncertain whether they will be well for trial, then the deposition might also be videotaped.
The attorneys will ask the witness a number of questions about the case and can ask much broader questions than would be allowed in a courtroom. Each party may object to questions, but the witness must answer every question regardless of the objections. A judge is not present to make rulings on the objections. The court reporter will produce a transcript, and the attorneys can ask a judge to have certain information from the deposition thrown out at trial.
Depending on the circumstances of the lawsuit and the involvement of the witness in the incident or incidents, the length of the deposition can vary. For some witnesses, it might be 15 minutes or an hour; for others, it might take a week to get all the facts. Witnesses are sworn in during the depositions and therefore cannot make false statements. They should take the deposition process as seriously as they would the trial.