Going through a deposition can be an intimidating and stressful experience if you don’t know what to expect. This guide will walk you through the standard deposition process and tips for making it through smoothly.
Overview of a Deposition
A deposition is part of the discovery process in civil court cases. It involves answering questions under oath about the case, similar to providing testimony in court.
Key things to know:
- Depositions take place out of court with attorneys present
- You must respond truthfully and accurately under oath
- Your responses are recorded by a court reporter and may be used at trial
- Refusing to answer questions or provide information can have legal consequences
Purpose of a Deposition
There are a few key purposes of depositions:
- Allow the attorneys to learn more details about the case
- Lock witnesses into a specific testimony that can be used in court
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of cases
- Determine if any additional discovery is needed
Attorneys use depositions to gather information, clarify facts, and size up witness credibility in preparation for trial.
Before the Deposition
There are several things you can do to prepare in advance:
- Discuss the case with your attorney – Review details, timelines, records, and other key information. Your attorney can advise you on responding.
- Practice answering questions – Ask your attorney to do some mock Q&A to practice staying calm and delivering clear responses.
- Read any case documents – Review relevant materials like contracts and medical records so details are fresh.
- Dress appropriately – Dress professionally as you would for court.
- Get plenty of rest – Being tired or unfocused can impact your responses.
What to Bring
You will likely be asked to bring certain documents and records with you. Ask your attorney if you should provide:
- Relevant contracts, reports, correspondence, notes, etc.
- Medical records or treatment history
- Diaries, calendars, or datebooks
- Receipts for expenses or losses related to the case
- Anything else requested by the attorneys
Only bring documents related to the case as requested.
During the Deposition
Depositions usually take place at a lawyer’s office and last 2-4 hours on average. Here’s what to expect:
Arrival and Set Up
- Arrive early to allow time for any security screenings.
- You will likely meet with your attorney first to review the process and any last-minute advice.
- The court reporter will ask you to state and spell your full name for the record.
- Remain calm and focused. Pausing to collect your thoughts is fine.
- Listen carefully to each question before answering. Ask for clarification if anything is unclear.
- Answer truthfully with facts, not guesses or speculation. Saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” is perfectly acceptable if needed.
- Keep answers concise and direct. Try not to ramble on unrelated tangents.
- Avoid arguing or debating questions. Simply provide truthful responses.
- Your attorney may object to certain questions. Wait for instructions before responding if they do so.
- Expect questions to cover all details of the case from every angle. The attorney may ask the same things multiple times in different ways.
- You will be allowed reasonable breaks to use the restroom, get water, or speak privately with your attorney.
- Confer with your attorney during breaks regarding how it’s going. Do NOT discuss your testimony.
After the Deposition
When questioning is complete, the court reporter will provide a transcript.
- Review the transcript carefully with your attorney to ensure accuracy and clarify any responses taken out of context.
- Sign the transcript to affirm it is complete and accurate. Note any needed corrections.
- Understand your testimony is still considered under oath even after the deposition. Do not discuss details publicly or alter your story before trial.
Your attorney can advise you on any restrictions regarding discussing the deposition. However, you should now have an idea of what to expect and be prepared to provide honest, factual testimony. With preparation and focus, you can get through your deposition smoothly.