If your case is in court, it is possible that you or someone you know will be deposed in a deposition. Alternatively, you may wish to depose somebody else to help your case. Depositions can occur in divorce, custody, paternity, personal injury, contract, real estate, and many other types of cases.
What are depositions?The traditional deposition involves one party or their attorney asking a witness questions. A court reporter places the witness under oath, records the deposition, and transcribes all the questions, answers, and anything else said during the proceedings. Typically, the deposition will take place outside of the courthouse and not in the presence of a judge or jury. For example, it will take place in a conference room at a law firm's office. Although depositions are taken outside of court, they are as important as testimony given on the witness stand during a trial. In fact, what is said in a deposition can make or break a case or lead to a quicker settlement.
Why depositions?Depositions are part of the discovery process, which is a stage of the proceedings where the parties attempt to gather information from each other and other sources so that they can understand the situation leading to the lawsuit and gather information or documents that will be used at trial. Deposing another party or a potential witness can help you and your attorney better prepare for trial. If you can afford the costs associated with a deposition, you should strongly consider a deposition as a tool.
Do I have to participate if someone attempts to depose me?Generally, yes. If you are a party to a case, you are generally fair game. The court rules entitle the other parties to depose you and other persons. If you are not a party to the case, the party conducting the deposition will likely serve you with a subpoena, which is tantamount to a court order. In some situations, the court will excuse somebody from participating in a deposition if it can be shown that the deposition is inappropriate.
Is an attorney necessary?Technically, no. But, it is helpful to have an attorney help you determine whether a deposition is necessary and what questions would be most helpful to your case. An attorney can also be with you to protect your rights if you are the one being deposed.