Depositions are usually taken in your lawyer’s office. The other lawyer will ask you questions under oath and what is said will be recorded by a court reporter. Before the deposition, you should review your answers to interrogatories and review the case with your attorney. When the deposition begins you will be placed under oath by the court reporter. The other attorney will give you preliminary instructions such as these:
- You have been placed under oath and you are required to tell the truth just the same as if you were testifying in a court of law.
- Seated next to you is a court reporter who will take down everything that is said and create a written transcript. The transcript can be used at trial if you testify differently, to point out discrepancies in your testimony.
- Your responses need to be verbal using words, the court reporter is not permitted to interpret nods of the head or utterances such as uh huh.
- If you don’t understand a question don’t answer it. Ask me to repeat or rephrase the question so that you do understand it. If you give an answer it will be presumed to be responsive to the question.
- Allow me to finish the question before you answer it. There are two reasons for this instruction. First, if you allow me to finish the question may be different from what you first thought the question would be. Second, the court reporter cannot take down two people speaking at the same time.
- I am only here to find out what you know. If you never knew the answer to a question that is asked or you no longer remember, then your answer should be I don’t know or I don’t remember. You should not guess. There may be questions involving time or distance or size where you don’t have an exact answer but feel comfortable estimating (e.g. I was stopped for about 10 seconds before I felt the impact). Let me know when you are estimating. Don’t guess when estimating. If you are guessing then you should say I don’t know.
- If your attorney objects to a question stop speaking. Let your attorney place his objection on the record. In most cases, you will then answer the question, but if your attorney tells you not to answer the question then you should follow your attorney’s instructions.
- Have you had an opportunity to speak with your attorney? Do you need more time? You are not permitted to discuss the case with your attorney after the deposition begins.
Keep in mind that the other attorney has your answers to interrogatories, medical records, and doctor reports. It is not your job to give a narrative when a question is asked, keep your answers brief. Answer questions yes or no if possible. Don’t anticipate where the questions are going, just answer the questions asked. You will be asked about.
Background: Date of birth, education, work experience, prior injuries/conditions/accidents, the accident in questions, complaints at the scene, medical treatment, current, complaints, things you are limited in doing (e.g. can’t walk for more than 20 minutes), things that you can no longer do (e.g. run), daily activities that are affected (e.g. duties at work, household chores, hobbies, sports, socializing, relationship with spouse/significant other).
There will be open-ended questions, such as what are your current complaints, what things are you limited to doing, what things can you no longer do, what activities of daily living have been affected. Invariably, you will forget something when you are asked these type of questions. Answer the best you can. If you are asked whether you have told the questioner every single thing, and you aren’t sure, then the simple response is that you have said everything you can recall at this time.
The most important thing is to relax, answer honestly and be yourself. Impressing the other attorney as a straightforward person with nothing to hide goes a long way towards strengthening your case.