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.
A deposition is a type of
discovery in which the lawyer for a party takes your testimony. The proper
purpose of a deposition is to gather background and evidence and lock in the
stories of the parties and the witness. At the deposition you will be put under oath, just as you would be in a court,
and a lawyer, can ask you a wide range of questions relating to the case. The
lawyer's questions, and your answers, will be taken down by a court reporter,
and possibly 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
1. You have the right to have
your lawyer present at the deposition, and you definitely should. Your lawyer
will help you protect your interests.
2. Your lawyer should spend
time reviewing the facts with you and preparing you to give a deposition.
3. Listen carefully to each
question and then answer it.
4. Do not volunteer anything
or raise other issues.
5. 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.
6. Your lawyer will prevent
the other side from using the deposition to harass you, or turning it into a
7. 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.
This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational
purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on
any legal matter.