Deposition Tips from a Trial Lawyer

A deposition is a basically a formal question-and-answer session — under oath — utilized to gather testimony and evidence to use at trial. Depositions are governed by Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – or their state corollary rule.

During a deposition, all testimony by the deponent (party or non-party watch ) is recorded in a document called a transcript. A court reporter transcribes all the questions and answers using a machine known as a stenograph – which can be used to prove their claims and defenses at trial. Here are some important tips for preparing and completing depositions from the trial lawyers at Sawan & Sawan.

Take Time to Prepare

It is essential that you take the time to prepare for your deposition, both together with the lawyer and on your own. Because most cases settle before trial, this might be your only opportunity to tell your story. Just how well you do on your deposition frequently has a substantial effect on the reimbursement value of your situation, therefore it’s important to perform well. Review your written discovery responses, medical records and other files from the case. Think about just how to tell your story of how the incident occurred and its effect on your own life. Know exactly what your legal claims are and what safeguards will likely be raised. Prepare yourself to tell your story and make a good impression.

First Impressions Matter

Since the attorney is assessing your credibility and likeability, you should focus on generating a favorable impression. Try not to get mad or upset. It’s fine if you get emotional during your testimony, but you want the opposing lawyer to depart the deposition understanding what a pleasant, likeable and credible person you are.

Honesty is the Best Policy

This is not just good advice for how to live your life – it is vitally important in a depostion. During a deposition, the Court Reporter will place you under “oath”, which means you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Lying under oath during a deposition is considered the same as lying under oath in Court – which can get you charged for the crime of perjury.

Remember the Record

The Court Reporter strives to catch a full and accurate recording of your answers. On the other hand, the Court Reporter cannot capture inaudible responses so it is very important that you provide oral answers and avoid statements such as “uh-huh” or inaudible head gestures. A written transcript does not provide the reader context as to how much time it took for an answer. The transcript doesn’t show the time lapse between a question and your answer and does not reveal your reply or appearance of fear following a question. Take as much time as you want to ensure an accurate and complete response . Do not just blurt out the very first thing that comes to mind. Remember – your answer and the question will appear the same on the transcript irrespective of the length of time it took one to answer. Your words can return to haunt you so ensure your response is fully thought out. This will be your final testimony, unless you reserve the right to examine the deposition transcript when the transcript becomes available – and correct any errors.

Only Answer What’s Asked

As a witness, your job is to make the examiner ask clear questions. Don’t answer and then ask the examiner to rephrase afterwards if you don’t understand what the question is asking. If a statement is made by the examiner, you are under no obligation to respond. If a question isn’t asked, no answer is required. A deposition is not a conversation. Be on guard when listening to the questions — don’t allow the examiner to pose a question that includes statements or details of which you don’t have any knowledge and put words into your mouth. When a query is confusing or misstates a truth, ask that it be restated, or promptly correct the misstatement. The examiner is not your friend. A deposition really isn’t the time for oversharing.

Don’t Guess

Your reply should always be limited to what you did, heard, or saw. You should only answer from memory or a perception of a circumstance you have personal knowledge of. You shouldn’t provide opinions or conclusions on a topic matter (unless you’re working as an expert opinion). In case you can’t remember particular information, “I don’t remember” is the proper answer. In case the question asked is confusing, “I don’t understand” is the proper reaction. By way of example, if you’re requested to supply the names of persons present in a meeting, but you can’t remember the names of all parties in attendance, “I cannot remember” is proper. A deposition is not a time to make guesses about things.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Although not required, we always advise people to seek the counsel of an experience trial lawyer for any formal legal proceeding. Remember that, just because there isn’t a judge or jury present when you are taking a deposition, it is a recorded legal proceeding that can have profound effects on your case. It also is conducted by experienced lawyers who are trained to damage your position. At Sawan & Sawan, our trial lawyers can help you with an deposition or court case by:

  • Helping to gather and organize any and all documentation requested by the insurance company – including things such as cellular phone records, bank statements, police reports, etc.
  • Preparing you to testify, including making you aware of insurance company tactics designed to hurt your claim.
  • Fostering comfort and confidence by explaining the process and ensuring that you fully understand the task ahead of you.

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