This material is created to help prepare you for a deposition and give some basic guidelines for answering questions. Of course, you should always consult with your attorney concerning the specifics of your case and your preparation for deposition testimony.
Depositions are testimony under oath generally given to your opponent and what you say can and will be used against you. By following these general rules you can take a lot of the worry and concern out of the process and find yourself more comfortable with the procedure. Auto accident lawyers rely on depositions to prepare your case.
What is a deposition really?
A deposition is the question-and-answer session in front of a court reporter and giving testimony under oath. Generally, the other attorney will ask very specific and pointed questions about you, your claims and your case. Frequently, a deposition will also be videotaped so it is a good idea to dress appropriately.
Most of the time, a deposition is not the time to tell your story, but to answer questions truthfully and honestly. The other attorney will be attempting to not only find out about the claim or the case but also be looking to establish inconsistencies in your testimony with other facts such as medical records, the accident report or previous statements.
Who asks the questions?
The attorney noticing the deposition is the person to ask questions first in a deposition. If there are multiple parties in a case, one attorney for each party can participate by asking questions.
Where does the deposition usually occur?
If an attorney represents you, your deposition will usually be taken at your attorney’s office. Other locations for a deposition can be determined by agreement of the parties or by court order.
What do I have to know?
There are a few main guidelines for giving a deposition.
- Tell the truth
- Listen closely to what is asked
- Make sure you understand the question
- Do not volunteer, and
- Take your time
- If you don’t know don’t guess
- Do not exaggerate
- Qualify your answer when necessary
If you listen carefully to the question, answer the question completely but do not volunteer extra information – simply answer the question and stop. Let the attorney asking questions ask a follow-up question if necessary. The single most violated guideline for giving a deposition is volunteering extra information. Keep your answers short and concise if you can. Questions about preparing for your deposition – click here!
You are not required to know the answer to every question that you are asked. It is perfectly acceptable to answer: “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”. Remember the number one rule is tell the truth and if you don’t know or don’t remember that is the correct answer.
Another important point is if you don’t know don’t guess. This is particularly important for such things as time and distance – for instance in a car accident, and also such things as medical treatment when you may not recall exactly what you told any specific medical provider at any specific time.
Frequently, you’ll be asked to list every complaint that you made at the emergency room, when in fact you may not remember everything that you said over every complaint that you had. In those instances it may be appropriate to qualify your response, such as “as far as I can recall”.
Likewise, if you’re unsure of what is really being asked of you is a good idea to ask for clarification. Simply “I’m not sure I understand your question” will get clarification from the attorney.
Another point is important in a deposition is not trying to be an advocate for yourself. Many people make the mistake of trying to make their case better and argue their case in a deposition. The deposition is not to tell your side of the story but to answer questions truthfully in a concise manner. At trial, you will have ample opportunity to tell your side of the story.
Of course, we should always meet with your attorney prior to deposition to go over what is necessary in your deposition.
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