A deposition is testimony, under oath, outside of the courtroom, and recoded by an official court reporter. It can be very intimidating to sit across from the opposing side’s attorney to answer questions about what you know regarding a case. Aside from the obvious things to get ready for a deposition, like preparing with your attorney and dressing appropriately, we wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks for answering questions once you’re in the deposition.
First, always make eye contact with the individual asking you the questions and listen carefully and intently on what he or she is asking you. If at any point you are confused by the question, or do not understand, politely ask the questioner to repeat or rephrase the question. It is important that you fully understand the questions being asked of you, therefore, if anything is confusing it is okay to say so in order to have the question asked in a way you do understand.
Listening to the way the question is asked allows you to determine if the attorney is being overly friendly or aggressive to attempt to get additional information out of you. These are two of many tactics employed by attorneys to get information out of a deposed person. The overly friendly attorney will want you to think of them as a friend, so you want to provide additional information, whereas the aggressive attorney might try intimidating you into doing the same.
After each question asked, stop and take two deep breaths before providing your answer. This pause allows you to comprehend and contemplate the questions being asked. It also provides your attorney an opportunity to object before you provide any information. It is okay to take your time in answering the questions. The official court record will not provide the amount of time it took you to answer, so take the time if you need it.
3. YES OR NO
Many of the questions will allow yes or no answers. If asked a yes or no question, provide a yes or no answer, and then stop talking. You do not need to provide any explanation for the questions, and in fact doing so can hurt your case. Which leads us to our next topic…
4. DON’T TALK TOO MUCH
Talking too much during a deposition will not help anything. Providing additional information is not required. You are only required to provide a truthful answer to the specific question asked of you. Avoid long explanations or stories that are off topic. Tell the truth in the fewest amount of words possible, and then, again, stop talking.
5. DON’T PLAY GAMES
This means don’t do things to aggravate or annoy the opposing counsel. Saying you “don’t recall” or “don’t understand” for every single question (when you really do) is also not helpful during a deposition. Evading the questions will not prevent the questions from being asked, and the requirement that you answer them truthfully. It’s best to just be straight forward, answer the questions, and get through the process.
6. ALLOW SILENCE
Another well known tactic that an attorney may employ to obtain additional information is to ask their question, wait for an answer, then lean back in their chair and be completely silent while maintaining eye contact. The idea here is that people generally do not like awkward silences and will fill the silence by talking more. The attorney wants you to give your answer, and then fill the following awkward silence with more details on the answer you just provided. Don’t fall into this trap. If you have given your true, complete answer, allow the silence!
Depositions can be a stressful experience, but the more you know about what to expect allows you to be better prepared. If you need assistance in preparation, or just have questions about being deposed, feel free to contact us for a complementary consultation.
And finally, as we always say, “If you think you need an attorney, you probably do.” Contact us to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney before anything is set in stone. We love answering questions!