What Is a Deposition? – Legal Process Breakdown

Perhaps you’ve just been served a subpoena requiring you to give a deposition in a lawsuit. What is a deposition, and how does a deposition work? A deposition is a court-mandated testimony during the discovery phase of a civil lawsuit. Those served with a subpoena must provide this testimony, which will be used for the case. For some, a deposition can be nerve-racking and stressful. However, with a little bit of preparation, the process is not too daunting.  Read on as we answer the most pressing questions, such as what does deposition mean, and how does a deposition work? We’ll also take a look at what to say and what not to say at a deposition.

What Is a Deposition?

What’s a deposition, or more specifically, what is a deposition hearing? A deposition is a sworn, out-of-court testimony given by a witness in a civil lawsuit. At a deposition hearing, lawyers will direct a series of questions towards the witness. The witness will respond to each of the questions, and the responses will be transcribed into writing. The witness being deposed (deponent) is often a key witness to the lawsuit and, in some way, connected with one of the parties involved. However, if a witness is not related to a party in the lawsuit (third-party), or unwilling to witness, a subpoena will be served. A subpoena legally compels the witness to provide a testimony at a given time and place. Depositions occur during what is known as the discovery phase. The discovery phase is when both sides of the parties exchange information and evidence before the trial begins.

Reasons for a Deposition

To better understand depositions and how depositions work, we need to examine the reasons for a deposition. There are several main reasons for a deposition:

  • Gain information: By questioning a witness, you’ll potentially gain new information that could be relevant to the case.
  • Hold witness accountable: A deposition secures witness testimony and acts as an accountability measure in case they change their story during trial.
  • Records testimony: In instances where a witness falls ill, disappears, or dies during the trial, a recorded deposition will still be accessible for court proceedings.
  • Recalling of details: Trial proceedings may take months if not years to commence. A deposition allows the witness to recall information while it’s still fresh in their memories.

What To Do in a Deposition

A deposition can be a significant factor in the outcome of a trial. If you’ve been summoned to a deposition, here is a list of things to do:

  • Dress Professionally: Maintain a clean and professional appearance for the deposition. Dress as you would if you were going for a job interview.
  • Take Breaks: Since some depositions can take as long as several hours, ensure you take enough breaks. Whether it be bathroom, lunch, or just to step outside for a bit, breaks will help with better focus and concentration.
  • Think Carefully: Take a moment to think carefully before you respond with your answer. Remember, everything you say is recorded and will be used in the courts. The pause as you think also allows your attorney to raise any objections if they deem the question inappropriate.
  • Be Honest: Lying is never a good idea. Experienced lawyers can poke holes in your stories, whether that be during the deposition or later on in the trial. Always answer honestly and truthfully.

What Not To Do

Alternatively, here is a list of what not to do during a legal deposition:

  • Argue: Try to keep as calm and collected as possible. Do not argue with the other attorney, no matter how heated or unfair the questions may seem. Instead, indicate to your attorney that you’d like a quick break if you are feeling like you’re losing your cool.
  • Volunteer Information: Don’t volunteer additional information that was unasked of you. Keep your answers short and to the point. Only provide information to the question asked.
  • Guess: Never guess when asked a question you don’t know the answer to. Only answer with facts, never speculation. If you don’t understand the question, ask the attorney to repeat or clarify the question.
  • React to statements: Do not respond to statements. The other attorney may use statements to provoke an emotional response. Your job is only to answer questions.

Seek Legal Representation

Having an experienced attorney is vital for those being deposed. The questions what does deposition mean, how does it work, and what should you expect, will all be explained by your attorney. An attorney plays a key role in the preparation and during the actual deposition itself. Here are some reasons why seeking legal representation is a good idea:

  • Preparation: The attorney will help prepare you for potential questions the other attorney may ask of you. They’ll play devil’s advocate and ask probing and even uncomfortable questions, so you know what to expect when the actual deposition occurs.
  • Comb through your public profile: An attorney will sift through your public profile, whether that be social media accounts, websites, photographs, etc. that could potentially contradict or conflict with your testimony.
  • Make objections: Experienced attorneys understand what type of questions are appropriate and what questions aren’t. The opposing attorney may ask ambiguous or already asked questions to get the witness to respond in a certain way. If that’s the case, your attorney will make deposition objections based on various legal grounds on your behalf.

Valiente Mott

The Nevada personal injury attorney team at Valiente Mott represents clients dealing with court proceedings, insurance companies, and other legal matters. We believe in providing the best customer service and care to those who need it the most. If you’re looking to learn more about what depositions are or need any legal advice on any personal injury matters, contact us today for a free consultation! 

Awards & accolades