How To Prepare for Your Deposition and Testimony
So you are involved in your lawsuit and the other side has noticed your deposition. So what do we next? How do we prepare? Well, the six (6) points below are what we think everyone should be aware of when testifying in deposition. Watch Gregory Brown’s video on how to prepare for your deposition testimony.
1. Be Presentable and Cooperative
You should dress as if you are going to go to court. One of the main reasons for this is that the deposition could be video-taped. Deposition notices will typically have a provision that allows for video tape and you will usually not know if there will be video tape until you arrive. So, you want to be presentable in case you are put on videotape.
You should also be cooperative and not to argue with the other lawyer. A deposition is not fun. You may be irritated, frustrated or even angry. But, you do not want that show through for a few reasons. The first reason is that your demeanor will show through on a video. Additionally, your demeanor and language, including anger, can be evident in the written transcript of your testimony.
2. Listen Carefully to the Question
Make sure you allow the questioner to finish the question before you began your answer. Make sure you understand the question completely. If you don’t understand the question, it is okay to state “I don’t understand the question. Please can you rephrase it?” Now they’ll have to do it so make sure you do that.
3. Try To Respond Each Question with “Yes”, “No”, “I Do Not Recall”, “I Do Not Know”.
In answering the questions, use “Yes” or “No” responses as much as possible. If the question calls for a “Yes” or “No”, give them a “Yes” or “No”. You do not want to provide long responses where a “Yes” or “No” could have answered the question.
4. Do Not Volunteer Information (Unless Your Testimony is to be Used in Trial)
If the question calls for a “Yes” or “No”, give them a “Yes” or “No”. You are not there to tell your side of the story. You are not there to convince the other side that your version of events is correct and why. You’re not there to convince the other lawyer that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and you’re going to educate them. You are there there, in essence, to help the other side. So, do not volunteer information to explain or provide context. Your own attorney can do that at trial. By volunteering information, all that you are doing is giving the other side more information to possibly use against you. You will also likely going to prolong the deposition. So, Don’t volunteer information!
5. Avoid Absolutes
Try to avoid absolutes. What we mean by that is, unless you’re absolutely certain about something, do not use words like “absolutely yes” or “definitely no”. If you are not 100%, you can say things like, “Well, to the best of my recollection” or “As I sit here right now, the answer is X”. So, try and be careful there.
6. Dealing with Documents
Usually in a deposition, the questioner will hand you some documents and ask you to review them and ask you some questions about them. First of all, make sure that you review the documents carefully. Review the provisions before and after to provide the context of the document before you answer any questions. If necessary, review the whole document and do not rush. Do not assume you have seen the document until you have confirmed that it is actually a document you have seen. Also, if you’re signature is on this document and you know it is your signature, do not be evasive and say, “I’m not really sure that that’s my signature”. It ususally looks bad and it wastes time. The main thing is to make sure it is your signature. Make sure the document is authentic. But once you have confirmed this, there is nothing to hide or gain by being evasive.
Gregory G. Brown is a State Board Certified Trial Specialist and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has taken or defended hundreds of depositions throughout his career.