What is a Deposition?

Before a trial even begins, a process called discovery occurs. This is a formal process where all parties can exchange information about the witnesses and evidence. Discovery allows for all parties to know what evidence may be presented at trial so that everyone can adequately prepare with no surprise witnesses.

A common method of discovery is to take depositions. A deposition is when a witness, called a deponent, is sworn under oath and gives an oral statement. These depositions do not directly involve the court and are usually held in the offices of one of the lawyers on the case. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, these depositions are now commonly held via video conferencing. Those present for the deposition are the certified court reporter, the involved parties, the deponent/witness, their lawyers, and sometimes paralegals, investigators, or even expert witnesses.

During a deposition, each party is given an opportunity to ask questions about relevant issues in the case. The typical structure of a deposition begins with a deponent being sworn under oath, followed by the attorney who brought about the deposition asking questions about the lawsuit, and ending with questions from any other attorneys. The length of a deposition depends on each state’s court rules, but generally the maximum time is seven hours, which can take place over several days. Since this can be a very thorough process, the length of the deposition can depend on the complexity of the case, number of questions asked, or the length of the deponent’s answers.

When preparing for a deposition, one will usually meet with their lawyer in advance to prepare. Such preparation includes an overview and explanation of the court rules that indicate how depositions are operated, questions the deponent will likely be asked by their lawyer and opposing lawyers, documents that might be shown or referred to, and guidance on how to conduct oneself during the deposition.

Following a deposition, opposing parties may follow up and investigate the provided information. The court reporter will produce a written transcript of the deposition so that each party can review the statement to further evaluate the plan for either settlement or trial.

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Written By Emily Chiappa

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