If you are the plaintiff, defendant, or witness in a legal case, you will likely be asked to give a deposition. A deposition is a discovery tool where a lawyer may ask you a wide variety of questions about the lawsuit. In their simplest form, depositions are question-and-answer sessions that are used to collect information from the parties and witnesses involved in a case. There is no judge or jury present during a deposition. Depositions act as your sworn under oath, out-of-court, oral testimony and they usually take place at an attorney’s office. Although, some depositions will take place through a platform like Zoom when in-person meetings are not practical.
Here are our TOP 6 TIPS when preparing to give a deposition.
#1. Dress Appropriately and Stay Professional
The first thing to consider when preparing for a deposition is how to dress. You want to make a good first impression. Our recommendation is to dress business professional, or like you are going to court. Avoid jokes and wisecracks. A lawsuit is a serious matter.
#2. Tell the Truth.
In any lawsuit, honesty is always the best policy. The truth must be told, even when it hurts. When an attorney asks you questions, he or she usually already knows the answer. Don’t try to hide or fluff any information. Be truthful with your answers.
#3. Be Polite.
People are often afraid depositions will be these very heated back and forth situations, but that is rarely the case. Most of the time, depositions are simply question and answer sessions. Some of the questions might feel difficult at times, but just remember to remain calm and polite. We are all human and experience emotions. Showing some emotion is fine; however, but if you find yourself getting frustrated or angry, take some time to collect yourself and remain professional.
#4. Keep Your Answers Short.
Take your time when answering questions. Make sure you understand the question before providing an answer. Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant, a deposition is not the time to try to “win” your case. Do not oversell, drag out, or exaggerate your answers. Your only job in a deposition is to answer the questions you are being asked simply and truthfully. It is your lawyer’s job to ask the correct questions at trial to get the evidence in that is needed to win your case.
#5. Avoid Absolutes.
Be wary of time and distance questions. We are all notoriously bad at estimating time and distance. Keep in mind, you are not expected to know exact answers. It is perfectly fine to give a range in your answer(s). For instance, I left the house between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. Depositions are not memory contests. You also don’t have to guess just to provide information. If you don’t know the answer, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t recall” is perfectly fine to say. This is especially true in reference to prior medical issues or care. Guessing or assuming an absolute ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can put you in a difficult spot if you make an incorrect assumption.
#6. If You Hear an Objection, Ask to Rephrase the Question.
Attorneys should not assert a speaking objection or explain their objections in a deposition. Even so, take pause if you hear your attorney object to a question. You might want to ask the opposing attorney to rephrase their question before answering.
If you would like to learn more about How to Give a Deposition, you can check out this video where Williams Elleby partners, Joel Williams and Chase Elleby, discuss The deposition process in a personal injury case: