Under the rules of civil procedure, each side in the lawsuit has the right to take the discovery depositions of the opposing party. When you become a plaintiff or defendant in any litigation, the opposing party may require you to appear at a specified time and place and give your testimony. That means answering questions put to you by an attorney, with you under oath. Telling a lie under oath can lead to criminal charges, conviction and jail. The deposition testimony is taken down by court reporter by shorthand, by using a stenograph machine, digital recording, or video. It is then transcribed for future use in the lawsuit.
How is a deposition used?
A deposition is used by lawyers and the insurance company to evaluate your credibility, your demeanor, and how you will appear to a jury. A deposition can also be used to contradict any testimony later given in trial. Such a contradiction (known as "impeachment") can be used to discredit you, by showing you have wilfully testified falsely, or that your memory is poor. Your deposition properly given can go a long way in assisting your case either by way of settlement or at the trial. What YOU do at the deposition can help you or hurt you, depending upon your attitude, truthfulness and appearance. It is also particularly true that if you make damaging statements under oath at a deposition, it can be used as an admission against you. In some cases, a plaintiff's admission against interest can be fatal to their case. Such mistakes can include: exaggeration of damages, failing to disclose pre-existing medical conditions which relate to damages being claimed,
What can the lawyer ask me at my deposition? Can he or she ask questions merely to impugn my character, embarass me, or harrass me?
The basic rule is that the questions asked need only address themselves to information that is relevant to the case or which could reasonably lead to discovery of relevant facts. Objections may only be to the form of the question. "Speaking objections" by your attorney which have as their purpose coaching or informing the witness are strictly prohibited. Privileged matter is also subject to objection and in a personal injury case, privilege, harassment, or that the question could not reasonably be calculated to lead to relevant evidence, are the only grounds to instruct you not to answer.
How do I prepare for a deposition?
The best way to prepare for a deposition is to read and be familiar with all of your prior statements, answers to written questions, documents, emails, letters, or papers which you have written about the case or the accident/transaction at issue. Talk with your attorney at length about the subject matters which he/she expects to come up in the deposition. You will probably be asked some basic biographical questions, background and details about the accident and injuries. It is extremely important, therefore, that you have everything in mind about the case at the time of the deposition. The attorney for the other side will get all possible information regarding names and witnesses to assist him in completing his investigation and preparation for trial. He will commit you, under oath, to all of the facts about your side of the case and the nature a
Specific tips on giving your deposition
Give verbal answers. Nods of the head, and colloquial statements including "um-hum," Uh-uh," are an opportunity for inaccuracy. Say "Yes," or "No." If you do not understand the question, ask that it be re-phrased. Do not talk over the lawyer. Wait until the question is concluded. If the lawyer interrupts you - your lawyer will object. LISTEN TO THE QUESTION. ONLY ANSWER THE QUESTION PUT TO YOU; DO NOT OFFER FURTHER EXPLANATION, STORIES, LONG PREDICATES, OR GOSSIP. Answer all questions directly, giving concise answers to the questions, and STOP TALKING. Tell the truth, if you do not know an answer, or are uncertain, say so. Never lose your temper, or laugh at the question. Speak slowly and clearly.
If you do not understand the question, ask that it be re-phrased.
NEVER VOLUNTEER any information. Wait until the question is asked -- answer it and STOP.
More tips on giving your depostion
Stick to the facts and testify to only that which you personally know. Accidents occur very quickly and are very stressful. If you have a recollection which is inconsistent with known facts, you can describe it as a brief memory or a piece of recollection which you know is inconsistent with facts learned later. Tell the exact truth about your injuries or losses, do not minimize or exaggerate. Do not, however, minimize injuries.
Do not fight over details that are of no consequence. Testify only to "basic facts" and do not attempt to spin irrelevant facts.
Be careful when giving opinions or estimates of time and distance. You need simply to testify forcefully to the basic facts and to estimates or relative statements of speed, distance, and time.
You should remember that usually the first opportunity that the opposing counsel has to see you comes at the time of the giving of the discovery deposition. It is important that you make a good impression upon opposing counsel and his client and you should appear at deposition time dressed as you would expect to dress if you were actually going to Court to appear before the jury. You should be clean.You should wear clean, well fitting, neat clothing. Treat all persons in the deposition room with respect. The insurance defense lawyer should be treated with respect and courtesy, but be careful about getting "too chummy." Remember Shakespeare's admonition: "Familiarity breeds contempt," and also Chaucer who adopted the proverb: "When you sup with the Devil, use a long handled spoon."
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