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What is a Deposition in Law?

Sep 28, 2020 | Personal Injury Articles

Learning About Legal Deposition Definition

Is it possible to discover the facts of a case from witnesses or parties before a trial? What is a deposition in law? Read on to get a clear definition of deposition in law!

Deposition Meaning in Law

A deposition is the taking of a witness or party’s oral testimony of the facts related to a case or lawsuit outside of a courtroom and before trial.

A court reporter is required to be present at a deposition to take down the testimony while the witness is placed under oath. Depositions take place in an attorney’s office and it is an official discovery process in civil law procedure. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many depositions are being taken remotely and virtually.

image of man organizing notebooks what is a deposition in law

What is a Deposition Hearing?

Usually, there are specific types of people present at deposition hearings.

Parties Involved in a Deposition Hearing

  • The witness: This can be either of the parties or an independent party who was present at the time a material fact happened or was involved in the transaction.
  • Attorneys of interested parties: Attorneys to the parties in the case and the attorney of an independent party can be at a deposition.
  • Court reporter authorized to administer oaths.

Additional note: neither a Judge nor the Jury is present at deposition hearings (except in very rare instances).

What Happens at a Deposition in Law?

The witness, in the presence of the court reporter, is required to answer questions given by the attorney at the deposition in law. This testimony is given under the oath administered by the court official and recorded.

Generally, the attorney for a witness may object to some questions, but the witness will still be required to answer all the questions. This is because, at trial, the judge will have the power to rule on the objections if there is a need to.

Legal Deposition Process

A deposition is usually recorded by a court reporter using specialized equipment to accurately and fully transcribe all the questions and answers and comments made during a deposition. The legal deposition process may take a few minutes or several sessions spanning weeks to conclude. A transcript of the hearing can be made available if requested and paid for.

What is a Deposition in Court Used For?

A deposition in court is used for two primary purposes:

  • To find out a witness’ testimony and prepare for the trial – the legal deposition process is required to know how damaging or unreliable a witness’ testimony would be at trial.
  • To preserve the testimony for the purpose of:
    1. Showing contradictions in the witness’s testimony at trial
    2. Showing admittance of facts that are against the witness
    3. Presenting evidence, the testimony of a witness unavailable at trial

Legal deposition testimony can often be used as evidence at the time of trial, especially the testimony of a party.

How Much Does a Deposition Cost?

The cost of an official legal deposition depends on:

  • The number of witnesses
  • The length of the legal deposition process
  • The transcriptionist’s fee and the transcripts applied for
  • Videography and other recording software or hardware
  • Court reporter’s fees
hands signing contract what is deposition

Can I Be Summoned to a Deposition in a Lawsuit?

Any person without immunity to court proceedings can be summoned to a deposition in a lawsuit.

Usually, when the other party to a suit is required to attend a legal deposition, the party is given notice of the time and place for the hearing.

However, an independent party or witness may have no interest in the outcome of the case or be unwilling to testify. A deposition subpoena must be served to the witness in order to ensure their attendance and cooperation.

What is a Deposition Subpoena?

A deposition subpoena is a court order that commands a witness to appear at a deposition hearing and answer questions from the attorneys. It is usually applied for by parties to a suit. Failure to obey the deposition subpoena would be treated as contempt of the court.

Do I Need a Lawyer at My Deposition?

An attorney should always be present with you before and during your deposition. The purpose is to assist you with understanding the kind of questions that will be asked and raise objections during the hearing. A lawyer is important to fully comprehend what is deposition in law and how to properly strategize.

What is Deposition?

The Rules of Civil Procedure guide the process of depositions in the United States. In the federal courts, Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs oral depositions while the State Civil Procedure Rules govern state courts.

Who Can I Talk to if I Need More Information about Depositions?

An experienced attorney in civil law procedure is the best legal advisor that can provide answers to questions about what is deposition in law.

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