A deposition is used before an official court proceeding. The purpose is to get your side of the story on the record. You could be called in for a deposition for a personal injury case or divorce proceedings. It is not unusual for a plaintiff to provide a strong enough deposition that it triggers talk of a settlement. That would be the ultimate outcome of the process. Your attorney will get your ready for your deposition and will also be present during the questioning. It will help if you understand what to expect and how to respond.
The first thing you need to know about a deposition is that you are under oath. Even though this questioning probably won’t take place in a courtroom before a judge, it still carries the same legal weight as testimony in a courtroom. The answers need to be truthful otherwise you could be held in contempt and face additional charges if this were a criminal matter. Yes, depositions can be “used against you” but only if the information you provide isn’t based on the facts as you know them.
Listen to the Question Carefully
Your lawyer will prepare you for your deposition by asking practice questions. In the real deposition, those questions might sound familiar but you still need to listen to them carefully and make sure you understand what is being asked.
Take a Pause
When the question is asked, pause for two seconds to see if your lawyer is going to object to the question. You can even look towards your lawyer for a signal to answer the question.
Your goal is, to tell the truth, and answer directly what is asked. You don’t have to embellish your answers by providing more information then what is requested. Sometimes the lawyer asking the question will stay silent after you give an answer. You don’t have to “fill in” that silence by offering more information. If the question asks for a yes or no answer, then that is all you have to give.
Some questions might require you to speculate or give your opinion about a matter. This is where you would be drifting away from facts and that could be a concern. For instance, you don’t really know what is going on in someone else’s mind. You might think that they were angry but that causes for speculation and could be objected to in court. However, if you witness someone punching a wall, then clearly that is a fact about a violent act that can’t be denied. “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember” are valid responses to a question, too.
A deposition can be a stressful situation. That is why you want to try and stay relaxed and not become defensive or angry at the questioning. If the opposing lawyers see a strong witness who is unwavering in their recollection of the facts, then they would be hesitant to put that person on the stand. That is when the settlement talks begin. You should have some water within reach and don’t hesitate to ask for a break.