Before every case goes to trial, witnesses will be required to give a deposition. This is the out-of-court sworn testimony that is used to gather evidence beforehand, and may, in some cases, be used during the trial, as well.
As the person who is being deposed, you are known as the ‘deponent’. We posted last month about how to prepare for the deposition. Now here are some tips for staying calm and giving a smooth deposition when it comes time.
1. Try to make a good impression
This process will be used to assess your credibility, and give the attorneys involved reasons to paint you in one light or another. Feel free to speak with emotion, but avoid getting angry or annoyed. You should aim to appear both likeable and, more importantly, credible.
2. Understand the questions
Listen carefully to each question that the attorney asks you, and don’t answer until you are certain that you fully understand the meaning. Ask clarifying questions to get a clearer picture of what the attorney is asking, then do your best to speak directly to that query.
3. Be as accurate as possible
Do your best to only tell the truth, even if that means saying that you don’t know or don’t remember. Don’t guess, or try in the stress of the moment to give a possible answer. Stick the facts as you remember them. Feel free to give approximate ranges if you know them, or rule out possibilities that you know are not true.
4. Review the facts
If you are asked a question about information that is contained in a document, take the opportunity to go over the paper. With details that are written down, you don’t have to guess or risk giving a different answer, just double check.
5. Correct yourself if necessary
If you realize later in the deposition that you gave an incorrect answer earlier on, make a point to stop and point out the error to the attorney. No one expects you to be perfect, but it’s important that the deposition be as accurate and complete as possible, so feel free to clarify.
6. Be cautious about absolutes
If you are absolutely sure about a detail, then give that answer. If you are only mostly certain, then make that doubt clear. Again, don’t guess, but if you can answer with reasonable certainty, do so. An attorney may try to catch you in a contradiction, and the more absolute your answer the worse it looks if you turn out to be wrong.
7. Ask for a break
Being questioned can be long and tiring. Ask for a rest when you need it and take time to walk around, get some water, and relax for a minute. If you are uncomfortable or have questions, a break can help you get back on point.
Your attorney can help you prepare for the deposition, and will be in the room with you throughout the whole experience. Ask questions and do all you can to prepare before going to your deposition.