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Deposition Testimony

In most civil actions, both parties have the right to engage in discovery to gather facts from the other party and sometimes from third-party witnesses. When discovery is conducted through an oral — or sometimes written — interview, this is known as a deposition. Depositions are intended to gather background on the facts of the case, establish evidence that can be used at trial or in pleadings and "lock in" the stories of the parties and the witness.

Before a deposition, you will be put under oath, just as you would be in a courtroom. Once the oath has been administered, lying to any of the attorney's questions could be grounds for a perjury charge. Generally, the attorney for the other side will begin by asking you a series of questions regarding the case. The questions can be wide-ranging; there are very few restrictions on what the attorney can ask. After the opposing counsel is finished, your attorney may want to ask a few follow-up questions. Both the questions asked and your answers will be recorded by a court reporter. They may also be tape recorded and/or video-taped.

Your deposition, when properly handled, can go a long way in assisting your lawyer in the litigation either by way of settlement or at the trial. What you do at the deposition can help you or hurt you, depending upon your attitude, truthfulness and appearance, as well as the facts and skill of the other side's lawyer.

Things You Should Know

  • You have the right to have your lawyer present at the deposition, and you definitely should. Your lawyer will help you protect your interests.
  • Your lawyer should spend time reviewing the facts with you and preparing you to give a deposition.
  • Listen carefully to each question and then answer it.
  • Do not volunteer anything or raise other issues.
  • If you do not understand the question, ask for a clarification. Your lawyer may object to questions that are vague, improper, misleading or irrelevant in that they do not relate to the specific case.
  • Your lawyer will prevent the other side from using the deposition to harass you or turning it into a "fishing expedition."
  • At the end of the questioning by the other side, your lawyer can ask you questions that may bring out, clarify or better present your side of the story.

After the deposition is over, the court reporter will type out the transcript of the questions and answers, and all parties will receive copies. You will have the opportunity to review the record and make corrections, but generally the reporter's word will prevail. In major cases, where cost is not an object, both sides may have their own court reporters present. The original may be filed with the court and become publicly available depending on the rules of the court or state.

Preparing to Meet With Your Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet With Your Attorney

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