Hodge-Podge Points for Giving Deposition
To finish out what I started several weeks ago about depositions, I want to end this blog series with a few hodge-podge, miscellaneous points that you may not have been advised.
Understand the purpose of deposition. A deposition is a series of questions asked by opposing counsel which you must answer. It is not a conversation. It is an opportunity for opposing counsel to uncover evidence for his/her purpose, not an opportunity for you to tell your story.
Understand the importance of deposition. It’s never “just a deposition.” Testimony given at deposition has the same legal force as testimony given at trial. A case can easily be won or lost because of what occurs at deposition.
Answer concisely. Don’t allow yourself to ramble or wander off on tangents. Answer the question as accurately and briefly as you can. Restrict yourself to one or two sentences at most.
Don’t Budge from the Truth. Your truth is your truth no matter how opposing counsel tries to paint it.
Correct misinformation. “Based on what Dr. Jones told you, I take it you decided to go ahead with the surgery?” “I decided to go ahead with the surgery, but not based on what Dr. Jones told me.”
Pause for possible objections. The pause not only gives you time to think, but also gives your attorney time to object, should your attorney wish to.
Be wary of the “yes” set. Opposing counsel wants to get you to agree to their version of the facts. When you find yourself agreeing with opposing counsel – as sometimes you must (“The earth is round, isn’t it?”), listen extra carefully to the next questions. The more times you say “yes” the more likely it is you’ll say “yes” when you shouldn’t.
Don’t preface responses with “in my opinion” (unless you’re an expert witness), or “at least that’s what I think.” The only thought you should be voicing is yours.
Resist being ‘helpful.’ “Who was your manager at the time?” “Mr. Jones was my manager,” not “Mr. Jones. I can get his address for you, if you like, I have it at home.” Now opposing counsel can ask why you have the address after all this time, are you in frequent contact, and on and on. . .
Opposing counsel may act like your best buddy – casual, easy-going, warm-hearted, friendly and nice. Don’t be swayed. It’s the “honey attracts better than vinegar” approach, and you’re still the fly.
“I don’t understand the question” Never attempt to answer a question you don’t 100% understand. Even if opposing counsel gets smarmy with you and asks “What is it you don’t understand about the question?” be humble, and repeat “I don’t understand the question.”
Say “Please repeat the question” as needed. Ask for repetition when you’re not sure you heard the question correctly, as opposed to not understanding it.
Stay Calm. Don’t let opposing counsel rattle you. If you feel yourself getting aggravated, anxious, teary or upset, finish answering the current question, ask for a break, and get yourself back on neutral emotional ground.
Leave unnecessary documents at home. Only bring with you those documents your attorney wants you to bring, if any. Opposing counsel has the right to see anything you bring to the deposition.
Take frequent breaks. A deposition isn’t a marathon. Take breaks every hour or so. Visit the restroom, stretch your legs, take a brief walk.
Find out if the deposition will be videotaped. This is common practice, nothing to be nervous about. Engage eye contact with whoever’s asking you questions, not the camera.
Read and correct your transcript when you receive it.
Next week, I will be in San Diego at the TIDA Advanced Seminar. If you have not signed up, it may not be too late to attend. If you are signed up to attend, I would welcome your thoughts on the hepfulness (or criticism) of this blog devoted to the ideas of defending the trucking industry.
As always, if there is anything we can do to assist you in North Louisiana or Northeast Texas, give us a call — day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.