12 Rules for Giving a Deposition in a Gainesville Personal Injury Case
Bill Allen | November 9, 2022 | Personal Injury
A deposition is out-of-court, under oath testimony that you give during the pretrial evidence-gathering period known as discovery. If you have received a subpoena demanding that you give testimony at a deposition, you will probably face cross-examination by a personal injury lawyer whose purposes are hostile to your interests.
Tips for Giving a Successful Deposition
Observe the following tips to maximize your chances of giving a successful deposition.
Prepare in Advance
Prepare carefully for a deposition with the help of your lawyer. You might want your lawyer to play “devil’s advocate” during the preparation stage by asking you difficult questions, demanding that you answer them, and trying to trip you up. Your lawyer can rehearse the deposition with you, offer you useful advice, and even attend the deposition with you.
Although the court reporter will not record what you wore to the deposition, it is still important to dress professionally. Dress in formal business attire if you can.
Listen Carefully to All Questions Before Answering
The nearly universal temptation is to jump to conclusions about what the lawyer is asking you. Lawyers like to take advantage of this glitch in human nature, so resist this temptation and listen carefully to all the lawyer’s questions before you answer. It’s no problem if you take your time answering.
Ask the Lawyer To Clarify Questions You Don’t Understand
You could get yourself in trouble by answering a question you think you understand, but you don’t. This mistake could even mislead you into answering inconsistently, which the opposing attorney would then use against you. Ask the lawyer to repeat any question you don’t fully understand. If you have brought a lawyer with you, they can help you with this.
Tell the Truth at All Times
Be honest, and don’t be evasive or misleading. You can be certain that the opposing party’s personal injury lawyer is waiting to pounce on any inconsistent or demonstrably false statement you make. A hostile attorney’s goal is to discredit you as a witness by catching you in a lie or a contradiction. Deliberately lying about an important matter while under oath is a crime called perjury. Remember that a personal injury lawyer will rarely ask a question they don’t already know the answer to.
Don’t Let the Opposing Party’s Lawyer Put Words in Your Mouth
The rules of cross-examination are typically relaxed during a deposition, and the lawyer can get away with asking questions that your lawyer would successfully object to in court. Be careful about questions that include a hidden premise.
For example, how would you answer a question like, “Have you stopped beating your spouse yet,” if you have never beaten your spouse? You can refuse to answer such leading questions, and you can also “Plead the Fifth” if answering the question would incriminate you. As always, it is critical that your attorney be present to help you identify inappropriate questions.
Never Guess at an Answer
Imagine this exchange:
- Lawyer: Please state the EXACT time of the accident.
- You: It was…uh…6:43 p.m.
- Lawyer: Oh, so at the time of the accident, you were checking the time instead of watching the road?
“I don’t know” and “I don’t recall” are both acceptable answers as long as they are true.
Be especially careful when testifying about times and distances because few people are qualified to offer specifics on such matters.
Avoid Non-Verbal Responses
The court reporter will make a transcript of your deposition, and they cannot record anything that is inaudible. For example, a nod of your head wouldn’t appear in a deposition transcript. Neither will a look of surprise or panic, so you don’t need to worry that the opposing party will use your facial expressions against you. However, things will be different at trial with the jury watching you.
People tend to think in stories. When we connect facts into a story, however, it is easy to make things up just to “connect the dots” into a coherent story. Avoid this tendency because a personal injury lawyer will use it to discredit you. Another problem with storytelling is that you provide more information than the opposing party’s lawyer asked for. Volunteering information is like handing a gift to the opposing party.
Don’t Let the Opposing Attorney Bully You
The opposing party’s lawyer has the advantage of initiative over you because they are asking the questions. Don’t let them use this leverage to intimidate you. A deposition is a bad place to lose confidence because you will need confidence (in the truth) to withstand the verbal assault that the opposing party will inflict on you.
When you are upset, it is easy to say things you don’t mean. The opposing lawyer wins if you get rattled and utter an emotion-based response, especially in anger. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what the opposing lawyer might try to do. Don’t become aggressive and confrontational, and don’t become defensive or apologetic. Have your attorney coach you in advance if possible, especially if you fear public speaking.
Demand To See and Examine Documents Before You Testify About Them
You have the right to examine any exhibit that you are called upon to testify about. Tell the opposing lawyer if you are unfamiliar with the item. Speak up about any discrepancies between the document the lawyer asks you to testify about and the document you remember. Speak out about it in open court so that the court reporter will record your comments in the deposition transcript.
Bring a Gainesville Personal Injury Lawyer With You
You may bring a lawyer with you to a deposition. Refraining from exercising this right is perhaps the biggest mistake you could make at a deposition. Your Gainesville personal injury attorney can provide you with invaluable on-the-spot advice during the proceedings. It is almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of how counterproductive it could be to “go it alone” at a deposition.
Contact Our Gainesville Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville personal injury lawyers at Allen Law Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.
We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida: