Brian P. Rickert
Depositions. Who needs them? Attorneys do and clients do. Depositions are valuable tools that allow attorneys to put a person under oath, and ask them a series of questions in an attempt to discover what the person’s story will be at trail. Depositions help the parties to a lawsuit evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their positions.
Whether your deposition has been taken before, most people have reservations about the process. This is understandable considering that having your deposition taken is an intimidating experience. However, if you remember a few simple tips, you can save yourself a number of gray hairs.
1. Tell The Truth
. During a deposition, you are under oath and any answers you give can and will be used against you. This is the number one rule you must follow. If you only remember one thing for your deposition, this must be it.
2. Listen To The Entire Question
. Make sure you hear the entire question that is asked. If you miss a word or two, ask to have the question repeated. Concentrate on every word that is said and wait until you hear the last word of the question before you start your answer. Do not anticipate where the question is going. Simply wait for the attorney to finish or you may supply an answer that does not correspond with the question that is asked.
3. Make Sure You Understand The Question
. Your deposition is not the time to be bashful. If you do not understand the question, ask the attorney to rephrase his question. If you do not understand a word the attorney uses, please ask for a definition. If you still do not understand, say so and the attorney will work with you to help you understand. Do not answer any question that you do not understand.
4. Answer The Question That Was Asked
. After you have listened to, heard, and understood the question, answer the question that was asked. Generally, you should keep your answer short and to the point. If you are asked a question that requires a longer answer, give it. Use your common sense. However, avoid giving lengthy answers if a “Yes” or “No” answer will suffice. If you do not know the answer or do not remember, say that. This is perfectly fair answer. You do not get extra points for guessing.
In addition, take your time in answering. There are usually no time limits in depositions. You should think about the specific question that was asked, think about your answer, and then provide your answer when you are ready.
5. Don’t Get Shaken
. Sometimes after you give your answer there will be a silence. The other lawyer may be thinking how to phrase his/her next question. Silence sometimes makes a witness uncomfortable and you may be tempted to fill the silence with words. Do not do that. Keep quiet and wait. The next question will come shortly.
In addition, you may hear the same question more than once. If your original answer was accurate, stick to it. The fact the other lawyer keeps coming back to the question does not mean that you are not answering properly. You must give the facts as you know them. If you did this right the first time, stick to your answer. Of course, if you realize that your earlier answer was in error or incomplete, you should correct or supplement it. Obviously, you should not say that an earlier answer is true if you become aware that it is not.
In dealing with the other lawyer, your manner should be courteous. Some attorneys try to rattle you. You should remain confident. If a question irritates you or makes you angry, resist the temptation to argue with the other lawyer. If you get into an argument with a lawyer, you may lose. Just give whatever facts you know are responsive to the question and remain pleasant.
. Remember, this is your chance to tell your story. Your attorney will be sitting next to you and they are there to protect you. Your attorney will object to any improper questions and will tell you if you should not answer a question. If a question arises, simply ask your attorney and he or she will help you.
Finally, if you still feel overwhelmed, you can always take a break to catch your composure.
Following these simple rules can make your deposition go much smoother. As always, if you have any questions, ask. Your attorney is there to help you.