If you’re a business owner who is going to court over a contract dispute or another legal matter (either as a plaintiff or defendant), you’ll likely be required to give a deposition. If you’ve never given one before, it’s essential to understand what depositions are and what role they play in a court case.
Depositions are sworn statements, usually taken prior to a trial, by defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses and others who have information relevant to the case. They’re part of the fact-finding process (“discovery”) in a legal action.
Most depositions are conducted in a conference room or office. They’re usually videotaped and can be played in court if for some reason a deponent (the person being deposed) is unable to appear in court later.
Attorneys for both sides in the case are present and can ask the deponent questions. If someone other than the plaintiff or defendant is deposed, they have a right to have their own attorney present as well.
Your attorney should help you prepare for your deposition so that you feel as comfortable as possible and are less likely to get tripped up or otherwise harm your case. However, here are a few key things to remember if you’re going to be providing a deposition:
Prepare notes. You’re allowed to bring them and refer to them when you’re being deposed. It’s best not to rely solely on them for your testimony, but they can help with dates, dollar amounts and other specifics about a contract or other document.
Be careful with your answers. Take your time to make sure you understand each question. Then truthfully answer only the question asked. Don’t volunteer information. That “whole truth” part of the oath doesn’t mean that you have to give provide information that wasn’t asked.
Don’t guess. If you aren’t certain of the answer, say so. Likewise, if you’re not sure what an attorney is asking you, request clarification. Don’t answer what you think they’re asking.
You may have to go through the same questioning again in court. If you do, make sure your answers are the same unless you have new information or have remembered something you forgot. If that’s the case, notify your attorney immediately. Your attorney’s there to help you and protect your rights, so it’s essential to listen to their advice.