May 06, 2014
Are Depositions Necessary in a Civil Lawsuit?
Do All Civil Lawsuits Require a Deposition?
Disagreements between two or more parties sometimes lead to a civil lawsuit. Before actually going to trial, the civil lawsuit must go through several steps. The first of these is the pleading phase during which a complaint and an answer are filed. The civil lawsuit then enters the discovery phase. At this time, each side gathers pertinent information from the other side or perhaps from third parties who may be aware of facts relevant to the civil lawsuit. While some discovery in a civil lawsuit consists of asking and responding to written questions called interrogatories, another important part of discovery is the deposition.
Depositions: A Common Feature of Civil Lawsuits
Unless the defendant immediately capitulates to the plaintiff, it is very likely that depositions will be a part of any civil lawsuit. Key players in the deposition include legal counsel for both the plaintiff and defendant, a witness and a court reporter. The judge does not attend the deposition. Instead, the court reporter makes an official transcript of the proceedings that may be used later in trial. The witness, or deponent, is placed under oath and asked questions by legal counsel from both sides in an attempt to uncover relevant facts and information. Thus, witnesses are able to enter facts into the record of the case based on their personal knowledge. Their testimony may be used later to check for inconsistencies or may even provide a basis for questioning the witness’ credibility.The deponent’s performance at the deposition can either hurt or help their position. Accordingly, legal counsel typically meets with the deponent before the deposition to prepare them for the questions they will likely have to answer. This may also involve reviewing pertinent documents and communications, such as emails, so that the deponent has a fresh memory of the events in question. Legal counsel can also provide guidance about proper appearance and demeanor during the deposition, as both of these can have a bearing on the overall outcome of the case.
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