Preparing For Your Deposition
What is a Deposition
One of the first things that will happen once a lawsuit has been filed is that the defense counsel will want to schedule your deposition. A deposition is a meeting with you, the defense attorney, an attorney from our office, and a court reporter. During the deposition, if a question is unfair, or vague, your attorney has the opportunity to object. Once the deposition is completed, a transcript is made of every word that is said. Your will have the opportunity to read the deposition to make sure that it is accurate.
What is The Purpose of a Deposition
The deposition may be used in a number of ways. Primarily it is used by the opposing attorney to determine what your testimony will be in the event that the matter goes to trial. At the beginning of the deposition, your are sworn to tell the truth and the whole truth. If you say something different later on. It can be pointed out to a jury or the judge that your story has changed. This, in turn, will affect your credibility.
The second purpose of a deposition is for the defense counsel to learn about you. The other attorney is going to have to make a determination as to whether they should settle the case or not settle the case. If the attorney for the defense has decided to settle the case, they use the deposition to help determine the value of your case, or what the likely outcome of the case is going to be if you go to court. If an insurance company is involved, the insurance adjuster will typically read the deposition transcript to determine how best to resolve the claim. You should always be truthful when giving a deposition.
Golden Rules of How to Answer Deposition Questions
- Always tell the truth. The whole purpose of our court system is to determine what actually happened, or what the “truth” may be. It is always best to answer all questions truthfully.
- Answer the question. Often in normal conversation, we want to elaborate on the question because we can see where a particular question is heading. Avoid the temptation to answer using more words than necessary. Only answer the question asked.
- Do not volunteer information The purpose of a deposition is, simply, to answer the other attorney’s questions. You will have another opportunity to tell your version of what happened. Do not answer a question you do not understand. If you do not understand the question, you should ask the opposing attorney to rephrase the question. If you answer the question, it is assumed that you understood what was being asked.
- Do not guess. If you do not have a specific memory or a clear memory of an event, do not guess at what “must have happened because….” This is likely to do more harm to your case than to help.
- Be specific as to whether you are paraphrasing or quoting. If asked a question regarding your memory of an event, make it clear whether you are trying to give a direct quote from what you actually heard, or whether you are paraphrasing the substance of the conversation.
- Avoid absolutes. Answers such as”I have never””, or I always” generally will come back to haunt you. For example, if you say that you never walk for more than 100 feet, there is a higher likelihood that you will be videotaped or placed under surveillance to see if you can indeed walk farther than 100 feet.
- Your are a witness. It is your lawyer’s obligation to object if a question is unfair. If you try to argue with the other side, generally, you will hurt your case.
- Admit that you have prepared for the deposition. If you are asked what you did to prepare for the deposition, it is okay to indicate that you met with your lawyer and talked about the process or reviewed documents. You may be asked which documents you reviewed. It is not wrong for you to have prepared yourself to give an accurate deposition.
- Do not agree to supply any further information or documents requested by the opposing attorney. All requests for information, including documents, should be made to your lawyer, not to you directly. Your lawyer may have reasons to object to providing certain information. If you agree to provide that you have a legal basis to withhold, you have waived your ability to withhold that information.
- Do not tell the other side about discussions you have had with your lawyer. Certain communications are protected by the attorney/client privilege and may not be asked about by the other side.
If your attorney objects, listen. Sometimes your attorney is objecting more for you than for the other side. By objecting, your lawyer is requesting that you listen very carefully to the question being asked.
Sometimes during a deposition, something will happen that triggers a better memory of an event. If you have a clearer memory on something that has already been talked about, let your lawyer know so that it can be corrected during the deposition.
You are entitled to take a break at any time for any reason – with one exception. You may not take a break while a question is pending. If you need a break, answer the question and then indicate that a break is needed. If your attorney asks you if you want a break, you should make it clear that you want a break.
Avoid conversations with the opposing attorney. They will not think you are rude by your lack of being talkative with them. It is suggested to all witnesses that they avoid speaking too freely with the opposing attorney.
There are only two times when you will be able to speak “on the record” about your case. The first is the deposition. Therefore, your deposition is very important. In an attempt to help you prepare for your deposition, I have purchased a client preparation DVD entitled, “Preparing for Your Deposition.” We will set a time for you to come and view the video and prepare for your deposition. Don’t let an inappropriate answer make the difference between winning and losing your case.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you. We promise to do all we can to help you through this deposition process.