You’ve been called to give a deposition. What’s the first thing that happens? You might have anxiety about being asked to be part of a court case. That’s natural especially if the process is new to you. We understand you’re not as experienced as our expert witnesses so we offer these tips for first-time deponents.
What is a deposition?
A deposition is sworn testimony from a witness as part of the discovery phase. It typically takes place in a conference room and you have the option of having your attorney present.
The purpose of a deposition is to find out what you know and to preserve your testimony. It is also to understand the witness and avoid surprised when they’re placed on the stand. Don’t worry. You may not end up on the stand as there are many cases settled simply by the uncovering of evidence and negotiation of parties.
Think before you speak.
Questions asked in a deposition are broader than what might be asked in court. Remember you’re a sworn witness so you’re bound by law to tell the truth. If you’re unsure of the question or questions, ask for clarification. The attorney should be asking one question at a time so it’s okay to ask which one you should be answering. Once you understand the question, think about your answer before speaking.
KISS (Keep it simple, silly!)
I remember an elementary school teacher told us to KISS — keep it simple, silly. The same applies to your answers as a first time deponent in a Sacramento area case. Thinking before you speak gives you time to give exactly the information for which you’re being asked, nothing more, nothing less.
What did you hear at 7:30 pm on December 12, 2015? This requires the answer to what you were doing at that exact time on that exact day, not your weekly or daily schedule. If they need more information, believe me they will ask! There’s likely a strategy to what and how they’re asking the questions.
A deposition may be as short as a half hour or could take hours or days so be patient. You should have an understanding of your role in the case and can always ask your attorney to help clarify so you can plan ahead. Sit back and let the attorneys ask the questions and argue their points. Your role at a deposition is to simply answer their questions to the best of your ability and knowledge.