If you’ve never experienced a deposition setting before, this could possibly be one of the most nerve racking experiences you’ll come across in your everyday life. Most deponents (that would be you) are so nervous, they can come across as a babbling idiot. Of course, there is no excuse for an attorney that comes across that way.
Let me back up a second. A deposition is just a fancy word for getting information, a disclosure, before a trial or possibly a settlement. Keep that in mind. It is your time to clarify the situation, inform the other party of your information, but not necessarily getting all your points across. It’s usually held in an attorney’s office, but it has been held in places like nursing homes, doctor’s closet-size offices, hospital rooms, bedrooms, living rooms, hotel conference or regular rooms, gyms, auto dealerships, post offices . . . well, you get the idea. Regardless of where it is, it will follow the same rules as being on a witness stand, but there is no Judge present.
Most attorney’s, if this is an auto injury or criminal case, may not have a face-to-face meeting with their clients (that would be you, again) until 30 minutes before the deposition. Fear not! This is just what they do. Most of them do really know what they are doing. This is run of the mill for them. You, on the other hand, have stayed up all night, probably didn’t eat a thing, and sweating as if you just climbed 10 miles on the Stairmaster. If you have faith in your attorney, take a deep breath and try to relax.
First thing to remember is to ALWAYS tell the truth. Those attorneys have a way of “acting” dumb and coming back to an old question in a different way, and it will bite you in the butt, if you’ve “elaborated” or “creatively” answered a question. Keep it simple. Answer only what they ask. Don’t “give” them any more information. If you divulge information, they have a right to question you on it.
Second, take a deep breath after each question, before you answer. It will help you to communicate your thoughts in a full and complete sentence. (The court reporter will be happy with you as well.)
Other good advice: “I don’t know” is a real answer! Don’t be afraid to use it. “I don’t understand what you are asking,” will usually get the questioning attorney to reask your question and break it down into segments. Don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t interrupt the question with, “yeah,” “okay,” or “ah-huh.” It chops up the questions and answers on the transcript, and it just makes you look bad on paper. The other thing is that theatrics don’t come across on paper either. (Some attorneys should take this advice as well.) If you’re screaming a response like, “I told him to pay me NOW!” It’s going to read, “I told him to pay me now.” So skip the screaming. Try to avoid, “ah-huh.” Say “yes” or “no.” Avoid saying, “Over here.” Be descriptive. Indicate and say, “On my right side, next to my hip.” Of course, that’s only if you’re talking about your hip injury. Don’t take me so literally here!
You can talk to you attorney at any time to confer on any question, but it has to be in between questions. So if a question has been posed, answer it and then confer with your attorney. That “I don’t know” answer is really good right about now!
Best advice is to be prepared for just about any question to be asked. Answer as truthfully as possible. Don’t lose your temper, regardless of how long it takes or how ridiculous you think the questions are. Attorneys can go back to your childhood with these questions, and it seems irrelevant, but they have a right to ask.
Well, good luck. Hope this helps, and let me know your experiences. I especially like when the attorneys get into a screaming match or one falls asleep reading the newspaper. Hey, I did say this is run of the mill for them!