QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING DEPOSITION
What is a deposition?
A deposition is a statement made under oath, usually outside the presence of the court. A deposition is a serious matter and should be treated as if a judge and jury are present.
Why do I need to give a deposition?
The other party has the right to take your deposition. This allows the lawyer on the other side to discover all the facts you may know about this case. It may also be the only opportunity that lawyer has to evaluate you as a witness. Once both sides have taken the depositions of all the witnesses in the case, it is often possible to settle a case without the need for an actual trial.
Who will be present at my deposition?
Your attorney, the other party’s attorney and a court reporter will be present for the taking of your deposition. The person suing you has the right to be there as well, however, they rarely attend. Before you are asked any questions, the court reporter will administer an oath to you. The attorney for the Plaintiff will then begin asking you questions about your background and the specifics of the accident. The court reporter will record your answers and will prepare a written transcript of your testimony.
What should I wear?
Dress neatly and comfortably. It is not necessary to wear a suit and tie. Do, however, bring a sweater or jacket in case you get cold.
How long will my deposition take?
As a general rule of thumb, your deposition will take approximately an hour. It may take longer, however, plan for at least an hour.
What kind of questions will they ask me?
Generally speaking, the other party will ask you about your background (where you were born, what you do for a living, whether you are married, have children, etc.). The attorney may also ask you if you have ever been convicted of a crime, if you have ever been a party to a lawsuit, and if you have ever been involved in any other accidents. Naturally, you will be asked about how the accident happened and what you observed before, during, and after the accident.
What should I do at my deposition?
· Be on time. Your tardiness could seriously interfere with the court schedule in this case. You could be assessed fines and sanctions for being late or failing to attend. Please let your attorney know immediately if you foresee that you will be tardy.
· Be attentive. Listen carefully to each and every question. If you do not understand something, ask to have it repeated as many times as necessary. Do not answer a question you do not understand.
Tell the truth. Honesty is the best policy. Do not attempt to lie to protect yourself or to enhance your case. Do not exaggerate. Even if the truth is damaging to your case, it needs to be told.
· Be humble and respectful. It is not necessary to say “Yes, sir" or “No, sir" to every response, however, you will find that such responses are helpful in setting a polite tone.
· Speak slowly and clearly. Answer each question out loud. The court reporter cannot take down gestures or head movements. Do answer the questions with a “Yes" or “No." Do not say “uh-huh" or “uh-uh" as your answers can be easily confused. Do not mumble or be vague.
· Take your time. Pause before you speak and use the pause to think about your answer. Make sure you understand the question before answering. If you do not understand, get clarification before answering. If your attorney begins to make an objection, stop whatever answer you may be giving and allow him or her to speak. If an objection is being made to a question that is being asked, do not answer until your attorney advises you to complete your answer. If your attorney advises you to not answer a question, do not volunteer any additional information.
Keep it simple. Do not attempt to justify your answers. Answer the questions with as few words as possible. You need only give the facts that you know and no more.
Keep your cool. Your demeanor is very important. Be respectful, open and honest. Answer the opposing attorney’s questions in the same tone and manner as you answer the questions from your own attorney. Do not let the strange and formal environment upset you. Be yourself and try to stay as relaxed as possible. Do not let the other party’s attorney make you feel angry or excited. Under no circumstances should you argue with the opposing attorney. Remember that your attorney is there to protect you. If you start to get upset, ask for a break.
Correct any mistakes. A wrong answer should be corrected immediately. Remember that the court reporter will prepare a written transcript of your testimony. If you feel you have given an incorrect response, ask for a break and inform your attorney immediately. Everyone can make a mistake. If you discover after testifying that you gave incorrect information, you should contact your attorney immediately and indicate the proper response that should have been given. The lawyer will know whether to correct the record.
What should I NOT do at my deposition?
Do not volunteer information. Answer only the question being asked. If it cannot be answered with a simple “yes" or “no," then answer in more detail. However, stick to the original question and do not go beyond it. Stick to the facts and testify only to that which you personally know.
Do not state a fact unless you are CERTAIN of that fact. Do not guess. If you do not know the answer to the question, just say you do not know. Admit candidly if you do not know or do not remember. Try to avoid statements such as: “I think," “I believe," “I guess," “possibly," or “perhaps."
Do not joke or make sarcastic remarks. A deposition is a serious matter.
Do not chew gum or have candy in your mouth at the time of your deposition. You will be allowed to have a drink with you in case your mouth gets dry.
· Do not try to memorize your story. You are only required to testify to the best of your ability. Rehearsed stories often sound false.
· Do not talk out of turn. It may be necessary for your attorney to make an objection. The objection may be raised before you answer the question. When this happens, stop talking immediately. Your attorney will instruct you whether or not you can answer the question.
· Do not look to your attorney for help in answering a question. Your lawyer cannot answer for you; just do the best you can.
· Do not refer to any notes or bring any documents to the deposition unless your attorney specifically requests you to do so. You will know prior to your deposition if you are required to bring any documents.
Will I be allowed to read my deposition?
Yes, unless you waive the right to read it. You may read it to look for any errors that the court reporter may have made in taking down your testimony. It is very rare, however, that the court reporter is incorrect. You cannot change the substance of what you said. However, you may add any changes you feel are necessary in order to explain or clarify a question you did not understand. Your attorney will help you prepare these additions if you feel that any corrections are necessary.