What is a Deposition?

Under the rules of practice in this state, each side in a lawsuit has the right to take the discovery deposition of the opposing party. Therefore, when you become either a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit, the opposing party may require you to appear at a specified time and place and give oral testimony under oath. The lawyer representing the other side in your lawsuit will ask you a number of questions about the issues in your case. Your answers will be given under oath; they will be written up later and be available as testimony at the time of trial. The procedure is very informal; it will happen in either our office or in that of the opposing counsel. We will be there with you during the time the other side questions you. Because taking of depositions is a routine with which we have had a good deal of experience, we have a good idea of what questions you will likely be asked. One of the reasons we schedule an appointment with you before a deposition is to give us an opportunity to discuss the questions we expect the other side to ask. You will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth, and a court reporter will be present taking down everything you say—therefore, it is extremely important that everything you say be accurate and truthful.

What is the Purpose of Deposition?

The purpose of a deposition is to discover what the witness knows about the issues in the case. This information helps the lawyers in the preparation and trial of the lawsuit. The lawyers for both sides have to have this information in order to evaluate the case for settlement purposes. We want you to understand that it is normal and customary for lawyers to take discovery depositions; it is done in most cases like yours.

How Should I Dress to a Deposition?

You should wear neat, clean clothing. It is not necessary to “dress-up”; we would advise that you avoid radical or faddish styles. If you have to take time off from work to attend the depositions, give yourself enough time to go home and freshen up and get out of your work clothes. It is extremely important that you make a good impression upon opposing counsel. The overall rule is simply that you should appear at your deposition dressed the same as you would expect to dress if you were actually going to court to appear before the jury.

Should I Bring Anything to Your Office Before the Deposition?

There may be a number of documents or exhibits that we need to examine together before you give your testimony. The following is a list of some items we may need, if they apply to your particular case. We may want or need your help in getting these items.
  1. Statement of time lost from work.
  2. Statement of lost wages.
  3. Income tax returns.
  4. Doctor bills (whether or not paid by insurance).
  5. Hospital bills (whether or not paid by insurance).
  6. Medical appliances
  7. Estimates of property damage or bills for repairs.
  8. Copies of your own insurance policies.
  9. Photographs.
  10. Copies of any statement you have made regarding the incident.
If you have or know about any documents that you might be questioned about, be sure to call it to our attention. We are not suggesting that you will be questioned about everything on the list, but it is necessary that we know everything you might be questioned.

Is There Any Particular Way I Should Act During the Deposition?

The following guidelines are based on our experiences in the past—the fact that we list the things below does not suggest that we have any question that you would not do these things naturally. The following list is merely a summary of important guidelines:
  1. Tell the truth! Tell the truth even if you think your answer will hurt your case.
  2. Be humble and respectful. If your answer is in the affirmative, say “yes, sir” or “yes ma’am”; if it is in the negative say, “no, sir” or “no ma’am”—even if the lawyer asking the questions is younger than you are.
  3. Never lose your temper.
  4. You must answer by speaking out. Do not shake your head “yes” or “no”; the court reporter must be able to hear and understand what you say.
  5. Speak slowly and clearly.
  6. If you do not understand the question, ask that it be repeated or explained.
  7. Answer all questions giving concise answers and then stop talking! You are not required to volunteer information nor is it advisable. If you can answer the questions with a simple “yes, sir” or “no, ma’am”, do so and then stop. If the question requires an explanation then give it, but do not provide an unnecessary explanation.
  8. Testify only to the facts as you personally know them. On one hand, do not attempt to give opinions or estimates of time and distance unless you have good reason for knowing that those opinions or estimates are accurate. On the other hand, if you are sure of your position, do not qualify your answer by saying “I think” or “I believe” or “I guess” or “maybe” or “possibly”. It is better to be positive. If you have some doubt then say “as I recall” or “in my best judgment”.
  9. If you do not know the answer to a question, admit it. Some witnesses think they have to answer for ever question simply because a lawyer is asking them and their answers are given under oath. You cannot know all of the facts, and you do yourself a disservice if you attempt to testify to facts with which you are not acquainted. We repeat—do not guess at something you do not know. If you do not know the answer, it is perfectly permissible simply to say so.
  10. Do not try to write down or memorize your recollection of this incident. Justice only requires that a witness tells his story to the best of his ability.
  11. With regard to your injuries, we want you to give a full and fair description of all of your injuries and losses. However, the facts will speak for themselves, and it is not necessary for you to magnify or exaggerate any aspect of your loss. We can and will bring in doctors and other people at the trial who know you, if it is necessary, to fully acquaint the jury with each and every loss you have suffered. For example, do not say “I can’t do thus so” if the truth is that you simply were not able to do “thus and so” as well before your injury, or that you choose not to do it because of pain or discomfort. “Can’t” means physically impossibility; that is, you cannot move your hand if you do not have a hand.
  12. If you have had any injuries before the occurrence of the incident involved in the lawsuit, be sure to tell the opposing lawyer about those injuries if he asks. He is almost certain to ask. Search your memory carefully so that you can tell him about every previous accident or injury or disease that you have ever suffered, even if you do not think they are related! If they are not related, we should be able to persuade the jury of the fact. If you do not mention some previous injury or disease, there is a very good likelihood that the opposing side of proof of its existence when you have not mentioned it will greatly increase the implication that we are trying to cover something up that is important. Not telling everything on this point could mean that your cause will be lost. If you need to call a doctor that treated you for some prior injury or disease, be sure and do so before your deposition.
SPECIAL NOTE: It is possible that matters which you consider to be private and personal may legally be the subject of the other side’s inquiry. For instance, a prior conviction in a criminal matter or a former divorce may, under certain circumstances, be legally relevant. In no event should you deny such matters without talking to your lawyers first. If you deny it and the other side is permitted to bring it out at trial, the results could be disastrous. If you tell your lawyer, and the topic is truly irrelevant, we can take the proper steps to prevent inquiry into that topic. REMEMBER: the single most important aspect of the lawsuit is YOURSELF, the appearance you make, and the impression you convey of earnestness, fairness, and honesty. Our experience has confirmed over and over again that the jury’s evaluation of a lawsuit is greatly influenced by their acceptance of the credibility and candor of the individual plaintiff.  

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