Guidelines for Giving a Good Deposition - Part 2
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Sep 23, 2015 in Personal Injury
In part two of this series, Goldberg Finnegan provide further guidance on giving a good deposition.
The following is some basic advice regarding depositions.
- LISTEN TO THE QUESTION
Frequently, people cut off one another during conversation. Listen very carefully to the question. Wait until the opposing lawyer is completely finished asking the question before you start to answer. During the deposition, it is important that you concentrate very hard on what the opposing lawyer is asking you.
- BE SURE YOU HEAR THE QUESTION
If opposing counsel drops his voice or there is a cough or some mechanical noise that causes you to miss a word or two, say that you did not hear the question. You should do this even if you are almost positive that you know the word that you missed.
- SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION
Lawyers often ask questions that are so long or complicated that you may not know what you are being asked except that it concerns a certain subject. You may be tempted to answer by saying something about the subject in the hope that the lawyer will proceed to the next question. Do not do that. Just say that you do not understand the question, and ask the lawyer to rephrase it.
You may not understand because the lawyer is not exact in his language. For example, the lawyer may ask you what happened after "that." You may not be sure as to what "that" means. Say that you do not understand the question.
Finally, if you do not understand, do not help the other lawyer in asking the question. For example, do not say, "If you mean this, then my answer would be such and such; if you mean that, my answer would be so and so." You may very well give the other lawyers ideas that he never had himself. Say only that you do not understand the question.
- ANSWER THE QUESTION
After you have listened to and understand the question, then answer only the question you are asked. If you are asked your name, give your name but not your address. The vast majority of questions can be answered, "yes", "no", "I do not know", or "I do not remember." Certainly not all questions can be answered this way and you should not give the impression that you are trying to avoid answering the question. Generally, however, you should keep your answers short and to the point.
If you do not know or do not remember, say that you do not know or do not remember. Do not refer to any other documents when answering your questions such as saying, "I would have to check my desk calendar."
At times there may be silence while the other lawyer is thinking how to word his next question. Do not be tempted to fill the silence by speaking. Simply keep quiet until you are asked the next question.
If the lawyer asks you a question that irritates you or makes you angry, do not argue with him. Getting into an argument with the lawyer is one of the worst things you can do. Just give whatever facts you believe are responsive to the question and hide your emotions.
If you are asked a question that requires a long answer, use your common sense. Do not make speeches but give a complete answer that is as brief as possible. Remember that every word you use is a possible target for the other lawyer.
When dealing with the other lawyer, be courteous and open, but mentally you should be on guard at all times. Even if something is said "off the record," the other lawyer can ask you about it when you are back "on the record."
Your personal injury lawyer may object to certain questions which are asked. Listen to these objections; it may point out some trap in the question you are asked.
It is possible that your lawyer may instruct you not to answer a question. This probably will not happen, but if it does, follow your lawyers instructions.
- STICK TO YOUR ANSWER IF THEY ARE CORRECT
The opposing lawyer may ask you questions more than once. If the first answer you gave was accurate, stick to it. The fact that the other lawyer keeps returning to the same question does not mean that the answer you gave is wrong. You must give the facts as you know them, and always tell the truth.
The other lawyer may be a skillful questioner and may try to create doubt in your mind even about things you know very well. You have thought about the case a great deal before the deposition. If you are sure about a fact, do not let the other lawyer shake your confidence.
If you do realize that an answer you gave was wrong or incomplete, you should correct or supplement it.
- TELL THE TRUTH AND DO NOT EXAGGERATE
It is very important that you follow this rule. The attorney for the other side can hope for nothing better than for you to exaggerate or misrepresent some fact. Sometimes, people do not tell the truth about some fact they believe will hurt their case. If you are concerned about how any matter might affect your case, please bring it to your lawyers attention before the deposition and discuss it with your lawyer.
- BE PLEASANT
Opposing counsel is evaluating you as a witness. Impress him. Look him in the eye, and answer the questions directly but briefly. Relax and, if appropriate, smile. Let him know through observing you demeanor that you will impress a jury.
- DO NOT BE EVASIVE
If opposing counsel asks you your name, do not say, "I do not know." You must strike a balance between answering questions directly and not permitting yourself to be pinned down regarding details with which you are not knowledgeable. Give the impression that you are answering questions to the best of your ability.
If you do not know what to expect, the deposition process can be intimidating. Before your deposition, your personal injury lawyer will review the circumstances surrounding the event that caused your injury. You will also review the facts which support your personal injury claim. Your answers will be closely examined by the opposing counsel, so it is important that your assertions are correct.
Your Presentation during a Deposition
You should treat your deposition in the same manner that you would an appearance in court, should your case go to trial. Dress professionally. Be courteous towards the defense counsel, even as they do their best to provoke you.
It is important that you listen to each question in its entirety before answering; if you do not understand what is being asked, say so. Only answer the question that is asked, and be careful not to elaborate or go off-subject.
Be truthful and accurate with your answers, especially those about your injuries; you don't want to exaggerate or minimize the severity of your injuries. If you do not know the answer to a question, state just that.
If you have answered other interrogating questions prior to giving a deposition, it is crucial that the answers you give during your deposition are consistent; the defendants counsel will be scrutinizing both your interrogatories and deposition, looking for inconsistencies which can be used against you.
The attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan have obtained numerous successful verdicts and settlements on behalf of injury victims.
If you have been hurt as a result of someone else's negligence, contact our law firm to learn more about how we can help you.