If you are guessing or estimating, make sure it is stated as such
Depositions are under oath. Every word said at a deposition is taken down by the court reporter and a transcript will be provided if requested. There are many times when an opposing attorney will ask you for a date or time or even how many people were around during a certain event. Fear not, if you can't remember at that moment, estimates are okay.
While it is often a good idea to give an estimate as to a date or time or amount during a deposition, it is important that you make sure that the opposing counsel knows it is an estimate. That way, if somewhere later down the road you determine or come across the correct/exact answer, you won't be held to the answer you gave months or sometimes years before at your deposition.
Do not get diarrhea of the mouth
Sometimes, the more you say, the more chance you may "hurt" your case. Keep an answer short and sweet. If you can answer with yes or no, say yes or no, then close your mouth and wait until the next question.
The opposing counsel's job at a deposition is to find out as much information as he can about you and the incident that occurred. Often times, depositions can be much more advantageous to a defense attorney as they are able to lessen the liability/damages that their insured may have or have caused. This is why, it's imperative to listen to the question being asked. Make the other attorney work for his paycheck. Each time you share too much, it becomes a gift under the tree at Christmas. Your one answer could lead him to ask 2-10 additional questions before moving onto his next thought.
You have given the attorney more information to ask questions about and make deposition longer.
Fully understand the question before you answer.
If you are asked a question that you don't understand, it is completely appropriate to ask the opposing attorney to rephrase the question or ask it another way. You are not doing yourself any favors to assume you understand the question because doing so could be the difference between winning or losing your case. This also goes for not knowing a certain word used by the other attorney. If the attorney uses a word/phrase that you do not know, just tell him you don't know what he means and he will rephrase the question for you. Trust me, he's not going to laugh at you if you don't know what an estate is or what APL stands for.
Take a lot of breaks
You are entitled to breaks, bathroom ,cigarette, lunch, You are not chained to chair- when you feel tired, ask for break!
Sometimes depositions can be an hour or 2-3 days straight of constant questions. Many of the questions asked are loaded and are asked for a specific reason. A well prepared party will be able to identify why each question is being asked and answer it accordingly.
As the deposition goes on, it is not uncommon for the deposed individual to get tired. When you tired you tend to think less and answers start becoming sloppy (a nightmare for your attorney). You begin forgetting important information regarding the scene of the incident or why something occurred a certain way (an even worse nightmare). Luckily, you are entitled to an unlimited amount of breaks during a deposition. I often encourage clients to ask for a break at the very least after they feel a yawn coming on. A break gives you a chance to turn your brain back on and get your blood flowing.
Always tell the truth
The court reporter's job is to take down every word you say during the deposition. A well prepared opposing counsel is going to memorize your answers to the deposition. That way when you are in court and asked the same questions, in front of a judge or jury, he will already know what you will say before he asks.
Lies are hard to remember, especially a year or 2 down the road. Aside from the fact that depositions are under oath and you could perjure yourself by lying or changing your answers, it will make you and your testimony look less credible if your answers are consistently different at trial than what they were at your deposition.
Listen to your attorney
While I've placed this pretty far down on the list, it is potentially the most important. Your attorney is your expert at the deposition process. While you may been in one or two depositions before your current depo, your attorney has been in 10 to 100 times that many before your current depo. Therefore, your attorneys advice is what you are paying him for. You'd be foolish not to listen to his opinion. That being said, if the opposing attorney asks a question and your attorney objects and tells you not to answer it--- don't answer it. While you may not think its important, your attorney may have a better idea of why it is being asked, or if it is even allowed to be asked.
The opposing attorney is not your friend
No matter how nice, friendly, or attractive the other attorney may be, he has a job to do just like your attorney does. He has to do what is in the best interest of his client. What you need to remember is that his job is to put holes in your case which in effect will in some way cost you a lot of money (either by what you will pay out or what you won't receive). This goes back to listening to your attorney. He is there to help you.
Listen to the full question before giving an answer.
This goes back to not having diarrhea of the mouth and fully understanding a question before answering. If you don't let the other attorney finish his question, you won't be able to fully provide the appropriate response to his question. Never assume you know what he is going to ask. Not only is it difficult for the court reporter to transcribe a "conversation" during a deposition, it is extremely hard when people talk over each other. When this starts to happen, it's time to take a break. Answering too quickly is another sign of sloppy answers.
Don't argue with the opposing attorney
Remember, you should not take anything at a deposition personally. The other attorney is just doing his job, much like your attorney. He is being paid to ask questions that will help put his client in the most favorable position.
Your attorney is paid to argue for you. The difference between you arguing and your attorney arguing is that your attorney should know what is permitted and what is not permitted during a deposition. There are many questions that are asked at depositions which may make you very uncomfortable especially when you realize that the answers are being recorded. However, this doesn't mean that you can refuse to answer or lie about your answer. As hard as it may be, unless your attorney objects to the question, give an honest response to each question. Arguing isn't going to do anything except prolong the deposition or potentially cause an unnecessary court appearance down the road where the judge could punish you for refusing to answer.
Do not bring distractions with you to a deposition
Depositions are distracting enough when there are just five of you sitting in a room (you, your attorney, the opposing party, their attorney, and the court reporter). Forgetting to turn your cell phone off, playing with your shoelaces, having screaming children sitting in the waiting area, or having borrowed a car that has to be returned by a certain time to a family member are all distractions that could affect your deposition. Each of the distractions will not only increase the length of the deposition, but they could lead to sloppy responses. It is important for your head to be in the game and the game is your deposition. If your head is anywhere else, you are only hurting yourself.
While there isn't generally a rule as to what you MUST wear to a deposition, it is important to realize what is going on around you. This may be the first time you are meeting opposing counsel. This is generally the first time that opposing counsel has the ability to assess your credibility as a witness or determine how you would appear before a jury. Looking your best helps gives the opposing counsel a positive view of you and makes you more intimidating. The other part that goes with this is that people generally present themselves better and choose their words better when they are dressed up. This will lead to better responses to the questions asked and better control over involuntary movements /tics that could occur. While there is no need for you to wear a suit, I always recommend my client dresses in church clothes or great for a deposition.
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