How to prepare for a Deposition
So, you are going to be deposed soon and you want to know how to prepare for a Deposition. Well you have come to the right place, in this article I will cover the basic steps that I go over with my clients to prepare them for being deposed as a witness. First, if you don’t already know what a deposition is, go check out my article which addresses that question first. What is a Deposition?
Here are the basics: Review your prior statements; Review Written-Discovery Responses; Review your Accident Report; Review your Medical Treatment; Practice Responding with Verbal Responses; Practice Listening to Questions and Answering ONLY What the Question Actually; Select a Nice Business Casual Outfit; Do something that puts you in a good mood before the Deposition.
I am going to break down each of those points in greater detail below both to explain how to do each of those things and to give clarification on why each of those is important.
Review your prior statements
Take the time to review all of your prior statements regarding the accident, your injuries, or anything else concerning the events the lawsuit is based on. It does not matter if these were written statements, recorded statements, things you said to your doctors, or things you said at the scene. It is critical that you are consistent in your presentation of the facts and inconsistencies with prior statements that you made will hurt your case significantly if the opposition catches it.
Review your Written-Discovery responses
If you are about to be deposed it is almost certain that you have already provided written responses to discovery. These would have come in the form of interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions. If you do not remember doing these ask your attorney and he can provide you a copy of them for you to review. In Alabama, interrogatories must be answered under oath and you sign the document with a notary stating that those answers are the truth.
If there are items you find in your review that are not accurate tell your attorney so that they can be addressed and corrected before the deposition begins. Make sure that you remain consistent with your prior written responses because both those responses and the responses in the deposition are given under oath, and nobody wants to get the question “so were you lying then or now?”
Look back at the accident report
By the time depositions take place you are typically one to three years removed from the accident date. Take the time to review the accident report and refresh yourself on the date, approximate time, location, and other details that may be listed in the accident report. It is also good to know if the police officer’s report matches your memory of the events. If there is something that is inaccurate you should speak with your attorney for advice on how to address that issue in the deposition when it comes up.
Review your medical records
Review your medical treatment and refresh yourself on which doctors you saw and for how long. Again, by the time we reach a deposition you are likely far removed from your treatment for your injuries and you may have forgotten all the doctors you saw and what you saw each of them for. It is a good idea to refresh your memory on this because while you may not be able to recall every specific treatment date, it is good to be able to provide a basic timeline of your treatment. You should also have some idea of what your bills were for your treatment. This shows not only are you going to be a compelling witness, but that you are also invested in the case and know what your damages are as a result of the accident.
Practice giving verbal responses
Depositions are done in front of a Court Reporter and they take down everything that is said during the depositions. Keeping that in mind if you answer a question with a head nod or head shake they are not going to be able to accurately record your response. While you don’t have to actually spend hours practicing answering questions verbally, it is something to keep in mind for the deposition because we commonly respond with non-verbal cues in our daily life.
In this same vein, avoid responding with uh-huhs and uh-uhs. They are difficult to accurately record on a transcript and can lead to inaccurate information being placed in the transcript.
Practice listening to the question and answering only the question
Ok, this one sounds simple, but it is actually fairly difficult in practice. I think it is best illustrated with an example. In a normal conversation if you were engaged to someone and you were asked by someone if you were married you would respond with something like, “No, but I just got engaged last week, we are still picking out a date.” This is a natural and even healthy way of responding to others because we can predict what the real question they are asking is.
In a deposition though where the person asking you the question is an adversary, you want to make them do their job and ask the right questions. If they miss out on information because they don’t follow up or ask a question on a certain topic then that is their problem. You do not need to volunteer information. So going back to our example question, on the day of the deposition the answer is, “No.” You do not need to be rude, and in fact, your goal should be to be pleasant throughout the entire deposition but do not provide them information beyond what they ACTUALLY asked.
Dress in business casual
So part of the purpose of a deposition is to determine if you will be a good witness at trial. To do this the other side will be looking at personality, character traits, education, profession, quality of your testimony, and yes how you look and dress. With that in mind, you do not need to be in a suit and tie or tux. I do suggest to my clients that they should wear business casual and if they have a large amount of tattoos or tattoos that may be offensive to possible jurors I tell them to wear something that covers those.
I don’t have an issue with tattoos in my daily life, and I am not easily offended by what people say or write on their bodies. On deposition day and on the trial day though, my personal feelings and your personal feelings on tattoos or wardrobe do not matter. We are concerned with how a jury will perceive you and make your case as valuable as possible. So in advance of deposition day pick out a conservative well-fitting business casual outfit and get it ready to wear.
Do things before the deposition to put you in a pleasant mood
Your mood is one of the things the attorneys will be paying attention to. If you come off as rude or abrasive a jury is almost certainly going to be less likely to like you as a Plaintiff. If you become easily agitated or flustered the attorney is going to note what things got to you and will plan to exploit those issues at trial. So a key factor to putting on a good presentation is the day of the deposition go do something you enjoy before the deposition. Then get to the deposition a little early so you are not flustered because you are running late. These small things will go a long way.
If you can’t remember or don’t know the answer to a question you can just say that. As attorneys, we are looking for specifics and to lock down the evidence during a deposition. If you honestly don’t know the answer or can’t remember it then you can say that. Now, don’t be that person everyone hates that says they don’t recall every question that is asked including their name. That is going to put on a bad presentation and result in the opposing attorney digging his heels in on negotiations of a settlement.
Bonus Bonus Tip:
Ok, I swear this is the last one. Avoid guessing at specifics when it comes to time and distance. You are not a human ruler or a stopwatch. In auto accidents specifically, this can be extremely detrimental to your case. If you state that it was 30 feet or two seconds the opposing attorney can potentially use that information in conjunction with an expert to show speeding or a chance to avoid an accident. If it was actually less distance or time than you said you may allow the defendant to escape liability because you guessed at something you really didn’t know.