Preparing for Your Deposition FAQs

1. What is a deposition?

In most civil actions both parties have the right to engage in "discovery" to gather facts from the other party. (Please see Discovery FAQs for more information) A deposition is a type of discovery in which the lawyer for a party takes your testimony.

2. Will my testimony be under oath?

Yes. At the deposition you will be put under oath, the same as if you were in court. Once you are put under oath your lawyer or the opposing lawyer can ask you a wide range of questions relating to your case. You must tell the truth at your deposition.

3. Will my testimony be recorded?

Yes. The lawyer's questions and your answers will be taken down by a court reporter. Your deposition may also be recorded by video or by tape.

4. What is a deposition used for?

A deposition is used to learn the facts related to the action. Additionally, your deposition may be used for a multitude of other purposes. First, an opposing attorney may use your deposition to gauge how well you would present in the courtroom if your case goes to trial. It is important to always be courteous and direct with the attorney questioning you. Even if you do not like the way that the attorney is questioning you, you should not reply in kind. Remember that everything you and the attorney are saying is being recorded.

Second, an opposing attorney may be trying to see if he or she can catch you in a lie. You should not let this happen. A lie during a deposition can hurt your case, even if you misstate something on a minor issue. If you do not remember something clearly, you should say "I don't remember" or "I would have to check my records."

Finally, the opposing attorney may be trying to see if they can get you to argue with him or her. Again, you should not let this happen. It is very important that you listen to the question carefully and answer just "yes" or "no"; your attorney will be taking notes and will be able to ask you follow-up questions to clarify or expand upon your short answer if your attorney feels like that is necessary.

5. Can I ask questions during the deposition?

If you need to ask a question of your attorney, you should do so in private. During the deposition, the attorneys will ask the questions. The parties are not allowed to ask questions during the deposition.

6. What if I get confused during the deposition?

You should always pay attention to the attorney taking the lead at your deposition. He or she will give you instructions about the deposition. When the attorney starts asking you questions, you should think about the question and make sure that you understand what is being asked before you answer. If you do not understand the question or the instructions given, stop the attorney and ask for a clarification.

7. Is a deposition a serious matter?

Yes. Although the deposition is a less formal setting than a trial, you should take the deposition seriously. A court reporter will be present taking down your sworn testimony. Any inconsistencies in your testimony can be used against you at trial. Therefore, it is very important to be thoroughly prepared prior to an appearing for deposition.

8. How should I prepare for my deposition?

To prepare for your deposition you should review all documents pertaining to your case. You should also go over in your mind how you wish to answer certain questions. Along with the facts of your case, you should review your educational and employment background, as questions may be asked about your educational/employment history. You may also be asked questions about places that you have lived in the past and adult relatives that live in the county where the suit is pending.

9. I do not understand why the opposing attorney is asking me about something. What should I do?

Do not try to figure out why the opposing attorney is asking you a question that does not seem to have anything to do with the case. Unless I object, you should always answer the question.

10. When should I arrive for my deposition?

Please try to arrive for the deposition at least 60 minutes prior to the start so that we may discuss the case before the deposition begins. If you have any questions prior to the deposition, please do not hesitate to contact the Rockefeller Law Center office.

11. Remember these basic guidelines during your deposition:

    • Listen carefully to each question.
    • Make sure that you understand the question before you answer.
    • Be careful of everything that you say.
    • Take your time.
    • Avoid volunteering information.
    • Speak slowly and carefully.
    • Beware of questions involving numbers, amounts, distances and time.
    • Avoid attempting to explain or justify your answer.
    • Give only the information which you know.
    • Avoid reaching in your pocket or purse for a Social Security card or other document without your attorney's request.
    • Do not joke.
    • Do not volunteer any fact not requested by a question.
    • Do not chat with the opponent or the opposing attorneys after the deposition is over.
    • Do not lose your temper.
    • Do not guess.
    • Avoid estimating.
    • Wait for instruction from your attorney if your attorney objects to a question.
    • Limit your testimony.
    • Be straightforward in your answers.
    • Correct yourself immediately if you answer incorrectly.
    • Avoid exaggeration.
    • Consult with me, if necessary, before answering a question.
    • The opposing attorney may say something that is offensive in an attempt to bait you in to an argument. Do NOT argue with the opposing counsel. This is your attorney's job.

     

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