Have you ever heard the term deposition when watching your favorite court room drama and wondered, what are they talking about? Well, you are not alone, it is a commonly asked question. If you are involved in a lawsuit, it is important to understand what a deposition is and why you might be asked to give one.
The Nuts and Bolts
A deposition is the process where a party or witness in a lawsuit gives testimony under oath, but not in court. It is a very common and important part of the discovery process, and can help all parties better understand the facts and issues involved in the case. Depositions are most common in civil trials, such as personal injury trials, where monetary damages are at stake. In rare circumstances, depositions are taken before a lawsuit is even filed.
Usually, there are at least three people present in the room where the deposition is to be held: the person being deposed (the “deponent”), a court reporter, and the lawyer taking the deposition. If the deponent has a lawyer, the deponent’s lawyer will be present as well. It is common for more people to attend the deposition, including a videographer and lawyers for all the parties and the witness being deposed. Because deposition testimony is taken under oath, the court reporter administers the same affirmation or oath given as if the testimony were in court before judge and jury. The deponent then answers questions which are asked by some or all of the lawyers present for the deposition. Because a deposition is an investigative tool, there are very few restrictions on the types of questions the deponent might be asked.
Who gets Deposed?
The most common deponents are the parties involved in the lawsuit and the most pertinent witnesses. The universe of witnesses could be quite large depending on the nature of the case, and often involves experts providing opinions on relevant issues in the case. For example, in a car accident case, witnesses might include people who actually witnesses the car accident, as well as the doctors who provided medical treatment to the plaintiff who was injured.
Are Depositions used in Court?
Because there is no judge present at a deposition to rule on objections to questions that are asked, and because depositions are an investigative tool, they are not always used in court. Furthermore, depositions are taken out of court, so the testimony itself is considered “hearsay.” This means that there has to be a specific reason who the deposition testimony might be used in court, such as to impeach a witness whose testimony in court is different from their deposition testimony.