Tips for your deposition:
- Dress conservatively and be well groomed as if you were actually going to court.
- Treat everyone in the deposition room with respect. Being courteous is one of the best ways of making a good impression.
- Tell the truth. Be honest and straightforward. The deposition is recorded, and you cannot change your testimony later. A lie may lose the case. In a lawsuit, as in other matters, honesty is the best policy.
- Testify only to what you personally know. Answering a question with “I do not know,” or “I do not remember,” or “I do not recall,” is appropriate in many circumstances. Do not be afraid to use these terms, if the situation arises.
- Answer questions directly, and do not volunteer any information give concise answers. If you can give a “yes” or “no” answer, do so. Avoid answering a question with a question. It is not your purpose to give the opposing party any more information than you have to. This is no time to convince the other side of the equity of your case. Answer only the questions asked, and answer them in as few words as possible.
- Speak slowly and clearly; talk loudly enough so that everyone can hear you. Don’t chew gum and keep your hands away from your mouth (both may prevent your answers from being heard). Do not nod in answer to a question; the court reporter may not understand what you mean.
- If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated. Do not answer a question until you are sure that you understand it. Be on the lookout for questions that have a double meaning or that assume you have testified to something when you have not.
- Take your time. Remember that there are three pans to every question First, you hear it; second, you consider the answer in your own mind; and, third, you give the answer audibly. Give the question enough thought, but also remember that if you take too much time you may appear to be making up an answer.
- If you do not know the answer to a question, admit it. Do Not Guess. Some witnesses think they must be able to answer every question. You cannot know all the facts, and you do yourself a disservice if you try to respond when you do not know the answer.
- Don’t lose your temper, no matter how hard you are pressed. If you do so, you have played into the other side’s hands. If you lose your temper, you may lose the case.
- Don’t look at your lawyer for help; you are on your own. If you look at your lawyer when questions are asked, it creates the impression that you are uncertain or have been coached.
- If we object to a question, stop talking. After we object, we will tell you whether or not to answer the question.
- Don’t fence or argue with the lawyer on the other side. He has a right to question you, and if you argue with him or give evasive answers it will harm your lawsuit. If you do not remember, tell the lawyer you do not remember. If you think a question should not be answered, but your lawyer does not make an objection, be sure to answer the question anyway. If the opposing lawyer fails to ask you questions that you think are important, do not try to give the information unless you are asked for it. Do not volunteer facts or answers to questions you have not been asked.
- Beware of questions involving distances and time. Do not attempt to answer unless you have good reason for knowing. If you do make an estimate, be sure that everyone understands that you are estimating. Think clearly about speeds, distances and intervals of time. Remember that time can easily be computed from distance and speed, and that speed can just as easily be computed from time and distance Be sure that your estimates are reasonable. If you don’t know, don’t try to guess.
- Remember that a deposition is an important and serious proceeding. Don’t become overly friendly or tell jokes to the opposing lawyer. Even if the lawyers engage in informal conversation among themselves or with the court reporter, you should avoid taking part.
- If you are asked whether you talked to your lawyer before coming to the deposition, be sure to answer truthfully. There is no reason for you to hide the fact that you talked to your lawyer. If you are asked whether your lawyer told you what to say at the deposition, remember that your lawyer did not tell you what to say; be only told you to testify truthfully. Your lawyer refreshed your memory for the deposition by going through the file. Do not ask your lawyer for help during the deposition. Do not agree to supply any papers or other documents to the other lawyer. Do not attempt to memorize your testimony If, during the deposition, you realize that you have given an incorrect or inaccurate answer, point this out to the other lawyer as soon as you realize it.
- Give a positive answer when you can. If the other lawyer asks whether you would be willing to swear to your version of what you know by reason of seeing or hearing and you were there and know what happened or didn’t happen, don’t be afraid to “swear” to it.
REMEMBER: You, and the impression you make, will have the most effect on the outcome of your case. If you give the appearance of earnestness, fairness and honesty, and if you keep these suggestions in mind, you can make a great contribution to the successful completion of your case.