In a civil lawsuit where a person, called a plaintiff, seeks money from one or more people or companies, called defendants, deposition is one of the most significant procedures that the opposing party uses to gather evidence. Deposition is in the discovery phase of litigation, meaning the time frame in which the parties exchange written questions & responses, and documents that will comprise all of the evidence at trial. Deposition is [usually] an oral face to face conversation in which the opposing party’s attorney asks questions of the plaintiff. At points during the deposition, the opposing party’s attorney will put documents in front of the plaintiff, and ask questions.
No matter how much a person prepares, there are almost always surprises at deposition. There is a lot of legal maneuvering going on in the background that manifests itself at deposition. My experience is that people who testify at deposition are always nervous, and frequently forget to say important things, or misstate important facts.
The point is, the more a client understands what will happen at a deposition before one, and understands what type of questions will be asked, and especially the more than a deponent reviews the documents of the case, the more likely that the deposition will improve the outcome of the case.
So, the following is a primer on what a deposition is, how it is conducted, and what type of questions to expect.
What are the basic procedures of deposition
Generally, post-2020-2022 Pandemic, depositions are face to face oral questions and answers. The majority of the time is spent “on-the record” meaning that a third person who has no interest in the case, called a court reporter, using a computer, types exactly what each person said, verbatim, for future use in the case. The first thing that happens to initially go on the record is that Court Reporter “swears-in,” the witness. Swearing in means that the witness, meaning the person who is answering questions, swears, under oath, subject to being prosecuted for the crime of perjury, or knowingly lying, to tell the truth. It is important that the Plaintiff understand what perjury is and what an oath is. The opposing attorney, can, and frequently does ask those questions.