Discovery is a stage of procedure in a civil lawsuit when the parties discover or collect information that assists them in the strategy of their case. By proper use of discovery, the parties are able to evaluate both the strengths and weaknesses of their case while also preserving testimony for trial. Depositions are part of the discovery process.
Who Can Be Deposed?
Any party or representative thereof to a civil lawsuit can be deposed. Any witness or other person might also be deposed if their testimony might lead to relevant and material evidence. Parties or representatives thereof are deposed pursuant to a Notice of Deposition that’s served on their attorney. Other witnesses are deposed pursuant to subpoena.
In the actual deposition, the attorneys for the parties are present in a conference room along with a court reporter who transcribes the proceeding. Relevant questions are asked of you, and you answer them under oath. The deposition usually occurs at the office of one of the attorneys for the parties.
What the deponent testifies to can sometimes make or break a case. Any necessary documents must be thoroughly reviewed before the proceeding, but don’t review any documents unless you’ve talked about them with your attorney. Don’t bring any documents to the deposition unless your attorney asked you to bring them. Beyond that, you only need to tell the truth. Be sure to dress appropriately, especially if the deposition is going to be video recorded.
You should only answer the question that’s asked. Don’t voluntarily expand on an answer. Answers should be short and succinct. Never speculate or guess. Your attorney might take the time to provide you with a sample deposition by taking a short informal deposition of you. This should give you a feel for questions, answers and what’s generally going to transpire in the actual deposition. If you don’t understand a question, you need only tell the attorney asking it that you don’t understand it. The question will be rephrased. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. If you don’t recall something, make that clear too.
Stop your answer if your attorney objects to a question asked of you. You’ll be told whether you can answer the question after the objection is made.
Most depositions are routine procedural matters. Be prepared, and tell the truth. You don’t know what the other attorney might know.
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