1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. It’s critical that you take time to prepare for your deposition, both with the attorney and on your own. Since most cases settle before trial, this may be your only chance to tell your story. How well you do in your deposition often has a significant impact on the settlement value of your case, so it’s important to do well. Review your written discovery responses, medical records and other documents from your case. Think about how to tell your story of how the accident happened and its impact on your life. Know what your legal claims are and what defenses will be raised. Be ready to tell your story and make a good impression.
2. Try to make a good impression. Since the lawyer is evaluating your credibility and likeability, try to make a favorable impression. Try not to get angry or annoyed. It is okay to get genuinely emotional during your testimony. One of the Deposition goals is to have the attorney leave the Deposition understanding what a nice, likeable and credible person you are.
3. Listen to the question and understand it before you answer. Sometimes lawyers ask questions that don’t make sense. Before you can answer a question truthfully, you must understand it. Don’t be shy about asking the lawyer to repeat or rephrase a question.
4. Help the Court Reporter. Your testimony will be transcribed by a Court Reporter. This can be done accurately only if you wait for the question to be finished before you start to answer. Also, your answers must be verbal (no head shaking or nodding) and understandable: say yes or no, not uh huh.
5. Be accurate and don’t guess. Sometimes telling the truth and being accurate mean saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Often witnesses feel that they should know the answer or remember the answer, so under the stress of the moment they make up an answer. Don’t do that. If you don’t know or don’t remember, say so. If you are asked about dates, times, distances, speeds or other specific questions, don’t guess at the answer. If you can approximate or give ranges, do that, but always make it clear that you are approximating by saying: approximately, about, between X and Y, etc.
6. Look at documents and read them before testifying about them. Documents are often used in Depositions such as other documents from the lawsuit, police reports, photographs, medical records, pay stubs, tax returns, etc. If you are asked to answer questions about a document, take time to look at it and read it before you start answering questions about it.
7. If you are uncomfortable or have a questions, ask for a break. If you get tired, confused or need to talk to your attorney, don’t be shy about asking for a break.
8. Correct yourself or add information. If later in the Deposition you realize that you made a mistake in prior testimony or need to add something, tell your lawyer that you need to do so. Then, the testimony can be corrected or supplemented so that the transcript is completely truthful and accurate.
9. Be careful about giving absolute answers unless you are sure. Defense attorneys may try to catch you in a contradiction by asking you about prior injuries, accidents or medical treatment. They will often ask whether you’ve been injured in a prior accident or have had prior medical treatment. Be careful about giving absolute answers unless you’re sure you are right. It’s very damaging to your case to testify that you’ve never been in a car accident or never have had any neck pain or treatment and then have the defense uncover proof that you are not being truthful When in doubt, use less absolute answers.
10. Tell the truth. Again, it is critically important that your testimony be 100% truthful. You are under an oath to tell the truth just like you would be in court. Remember that the Internet allows attorneys to research and verify many things. Subpoenas can also be used to uncover information about your past and surveillance can be used to monitor your activities. Being caught having said something inaccurate, intentional or not, can hurt or kill your case. Honesty is truly the best policy.