Having your deposition taken is a very important part of your personal injury case. In a deposition, you answer questions asked by the opposing party's attorney. A court reporter types up a record or transcript of everything that is said. The deposition testimony can then be used as evidence to support motions and it could later be read back in court if your case goes to trial.
Depositions usually take place in a law firm's conference room. There is no judge present, but a court reporter will swear you in to tell the truth just as if you were going to testify in court. The opposing attorney will ask you questions, not only to learn about the facts of the case but to also find out how you'll come across to a jury.
Your attorney will meet with you before the deposition to help you prepare. Often the deposition takes place long after the personal injury accident occurred. So, your attorney might review case documents with you to help refresh your memory. Let your attorney know if you feel nervous about being questioned. Your attorney can practice asking you questions until you feel comfortable with the process.
Consider these other tips for helping your deposition go as smoothly as possible:
Make a good appearance. Dress well and be well groomed. The attorney asking questions is trying to determine how likeable or truthful you'll appear to a judge or jury.
Speak clearly and answer out loud so the court reporter can record you answers.
Remember that a deposition has a question and answer format. It's not a casual conversation. Don't make small talk or jokes. These often don't come across well in the written transcript.
Take your time. Listen to the complete question before you begin to answer. Pause before answering. This gives you a chance to form your answer, and it gives your attorney time to make an objection if one is needed.
Ask for a break if you need one, even if it's just for a few minutes. Stretching your legs, or getting some fresh air helps you stay alert. But be careful about what you say "off the record" during breaks. You may be asked about things you say when you are later "back on the record."
Don't argue with the attorney asking the questions. Be polite. It's your lawyer's job to object to harassing or improper questions.
Don't be afraid to say "I don’t remember," "I don’t know," and "I don't understand the question." If you have to guess or estimate, say "I'm guessing" or "I'm estimating."
Give short answers, such as "Yes," "No." Don't volunteer any information. Just answer the question that is asked, and no more. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't try to help by suggesting where the answer could be found.
If you're asked to list things or give a detailed explanation, answer as best you can, and end your answer with "that’s all I can think of right now." Then, if you remember more later, you can add to your answer without appearing deceptive.
Be prepared to describe your injuries. Is your pain, constant, sharp, dull, or achy? Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Don't exaggerate your injuries, but don't minimize them either.
Most importantly, tell the truth. You’ll be asked the same questions several times during your case, and any inconsistencies will come back to hurt you.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Who will be in the room when my deposition is taken?
- Do I need to bring any documents to the deposition?
- How long will my deposition last? Is there a time limit?