What Are The Four Keys To Improving Your Deposition Testimony?
Fundamental Rule - Tell The Truth
Everything in this guide is designed to help you tell the truth. You will have raised your hand to swear or affirm that you are telling the truth. If you don't tell the truth not only will you face the consequences of being dishonest (from God or yourself) but you will most likely lose your case. Once a jury finds a witness to be dishonest, its over. So remember everything in this short guide is to help you tell the truth.
Key One - Make Sure You HEAR The Question
If you don't hear the question, and I mean every word of the question, then how can you tell the truth? How can you give a truthful answer? The bottom line is you cannot be sure you are giving the truthful answer when you don't hear the question. Before you swear to an answer, please make sure you hear it. What should you do if you don't hear the question? What if someone coughs, or the lawyer asking you mumbles the question, or someone opens the door, etc. and you don't hear? Simply ask the lawyer to repeat the question. You are not having a conversation - instead it is an interrogation so don't worry about having to ask someone to repeat themselves. That lawyer is making a lot of money to make sure you lose your case. He or she is not your friend. Don't worry what they think of you. You control the only thing that you can - making sure first that you hear the question.
Key Two - Make Sure You UNDERSTAND The Question
After you hear the question, you have to make sure you understand it. If the lawyer shouts at you in a foreign language, you heard it but how would you know you are answering truthfully if you don't understand it? Again, we mean the question as a whole and every single word of the question. Don't "try and figure it out" or guess what the lawyer means. Instead say "I don't understand your question, can you rephrase it" or "Can you explain what you mean by revocation" or whatever it is that you don't understand. Again, don't worry about what your opponent thinks of you - I have tried cases where bad answers in depositions have been devastating and they came about because the witness did not want to speak up and understand the question before they answered. Tell the truth - you have to hear it and understand the question before you can tell the truth.
Key Three - Make Sure You Take A Moment To THINK About The Truthful Answer
Answering questions is a serious matter in a deposition. There is no rush. Don't cut off the lawyer just because you think you know what she is about to ask you. Let her finish her question and you then take the time to think about the truthful answer before you start swearing. It is better to take 5 seconds to gather your thoughts in a deliberate matter than to speak without thinking and then have to spend 5 minutes "clearing" up what you just testified to.... Remember our goal is to tell the truth. To do this we must hear the question, we must understand it, and then we must think about the truthful response.
Key Four - Make Sure You ONLY ANSWER THE QUESTION ASKED, Not Anything Else
This is the hardest one of all! Only answer the question asked. Nothing else. Even if you know the next question, don't answer it. Only answer the question posed. Don't be concerned about if the question makes you look bad - don't explain or argue or justify - instead simply answer the question that has been posed to you. That is your obligation - answer truthfully the question that is before you. Its hard to do because we don't want to look bad. So if someone asks us to "get milk on your way home" and we forget and then we walk inside the house and that person says "Did you get the milk?" we often don't want to follow this rule do we?! We say "Oh, well the traffic was busy" or "Do we really need milk" or some other reason. The question was simple: "Did you get the milk?" The answer is "Yes" or "No" or "I don't know" or "I don't remember." Now if a follow up question is asked such as "Why did you not get the milk" then it is time to explain.
Why Is Answering Only The Question Posed So Important?
Lawyers tend to love when the people they are deposing give long answers trying to justify why they did something. Typically, they just hang themselves in their efforts to justify. They also come across not looking honest. "Did you run the red light?" is a simple question. But if the defendant in a car wreck case refuses to give a simple answer ("yes" or "no") then it calls into question his credibility. When he says "Why does that matter? Everyone runs that red light. I didn't get a ticket for running it. Your guy is not really hurt anyway. Etc..." Juries tend to not like people who won't take responsibility. When we refuse to give a straight answer we damage our most valuable possession in the courtroom - our credibility. Here's the test - when you start to answer a question "Yes, BUT....." or "No, BUT...." then you probably are not simply answering the question. We have won cases because defendants wanted to argue and the jury didn't like that.
Sometimes it is hard to simply answer the question posed. We want to argue. But that's what your lawyer is for - to argue your case and to bring out in testimony from you the points that need to be made. You can greatly enhance your credibility by simply making sure you hear the question, understand it, think about the truthful response, and then only answer the question asked. Best wishes! John
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