Preparing for your Deposition
If you’ve been in a collision and have sustained serious injuries your case will likely proceed to litigation. Litigation will require that you provide a deposition so that your personal testimony is preserved to ensure a successful outcome. Having your deposition taken by a defense attorney can be an intimidating process, but it’s important to know that your honest account of what happened is crucial for a claim and helps protect you.
Think of a deposition as something like being examined in court on a witness stand. Only, there is no courtroom, no judge and no jury present. During a deposition, you are presenting evidence through your sworn testimony by answering questions that are asked by an attorney or team of attorneys.
Whether or not your case is settled before the actual trial, your deposition testimony serves a legal purpose that can help to protect you, your economic situation and your future.
The attorneys at Sapien Law LLC will assist you with preparing for a deposition.
What Happens Before the Deposition?
To make the deposition go smoothly, your attorney will thoroughly explain what to expect and help you feel confident going in. Defense attorneys asking you questions may seem intimidating, but providing incorrect/false information may be construed as lying under oath which will ultimately negatively affect your credibility as the case proceeds toward a trial. Therefore, it’s best practice to be prepared for any potential questions you may be asked.
There will be times when you simply do not remember the answer to the question being asked. If this is the case, you may respond with, “I do not recall.” Discussing the deposition with your attorney can help prepare you and your responses for these types of questions. You may also need to review documents that may be introduced at your deposition.
What Happens During a Deposition?
Depositions can be long, grueling and stressful. Attorneys from both sides of a claim will meet with a witness to get a first-hand account of what happened during the collision or incident, as well as the state of the witness before and after the incident. Your deposition will require you to know certain details, such as medical history and the facts of the collision. Your testimony will require honest answers, since each witness swears under oath to tell the truth. All answers are recorded by a court stenographer and deposition proceedings may also be videotaped.
Both your legal team and the opposing defense counsel will be present during the deposition. It is always recommended that you have retained counsel if your case is in litigation. You should always have your lawyer with you when you are a witness in a deposition.
Depositions may last several hours. In New Mexico your deposition may last for seven (7) at most. The best way to get ready for your deposition is by being prepared for typical questions that may be asked, to answer in calm and measured responses and to answer honestly and to the best of your ability.
Avoid fatigue and the probability of saying something inaccurate during the deposition by getting adequate rest the night before the deposition. You will also have the option to take breaks for water or to walk around during the deposition as you need them. You will be able to consult with your attorney during the break times.
What Happens After the Deposition?
It may take several weeks after the deposition for the transcription process to be completed. After which time, your attorney will receive a full copy of the deposition. In New Mexico you have the option to “read and sign” your deposition to ensure that the testimony was accurately recorded by the court reporter. If you notice any mistakes regarding your testimony or believe you have been misquoted, you should contact your attorney right away. The same holds true should you remember/realize you misstated something. You will have the right to correct the transcript, however, any corrections in your testimony may be subject to cross examination by defense counsel at a trial.
Your deposition, as well as any other documents that are relevant to your case, may be used to settle your case and will also be used in court if your case goes to trial.
Follow these tips to ensure your deposition is as positive of an experience as possible:
– Dress appropriately and professionally
– Speak clearly to ensure a correct oral record
– Always tell the truth
– Make sure you understand the question
– Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question. Do not answer a question that confuses you. Ask for further clarification so you are completely confident in your answer.
– Take all the time you need to think before you answer
– Tell only what you are asked
– Be consistent with your answers. The best way to be consistent is to be honest. Be aware that you may be asked several variations of the same question multiple times. If you give inconsistent answers, that inconsistency could impact your credibility.
– If you do not know the answer, say so. If you do not recall something or do not know the answer to something, state so plainly. Your deposition is not a test. Never guess or speculate. If you are ever uneasy or unsure about something throughout all parts of the deposition process, speak with your attorney. Your attorney’s responsibilities to you are to guide you through all parts of the litigation process and act as your advocate during any deposition.
– Prepare carefully; In preparation for your deposition, your attorney will discuss areas of concern and suggest ways to handle the questions in that area. Second, you should concentrate and exercise care throughout the deposition. A deposition is frequently much more fatiguing than first-time participants anticipate. If you sense that you are losing your concentration or fatiguing, if you have to go to the bathroom or are thirsty or are confused or uncomfortable, or for any number of reasons you can request a brief break to attend to your comfort and to regain your concentration.
– Control what you can: While much of what will happen to you in a deposition is beyond your control, you can control the most important parts of your behavior. First, your attitude going into the deposition is most important. You should be relaxed and confident.
– Be Patient, Be Polite and Control Your Emotions
– Always Read the Document Carefully before you answer any questions
– Complete your answer and make sure to correct it if you need to
– The Only Fear You Have Is Fear Itself: You need to remember that the deposition process will be unfamiliar territory. You are not a professional witness and this may be your first deposition. Nonetheless, if you have prepared yourself carefully, if you keep these rules in mind and keep your head throughout the deposition and always remember the cardinal rules, to listen to the question carefully, think it through clearly and answer briefly and truly, you will do just fine.
Remember that you have the upper hand in the deposition. The defense attorney asking the question only knows the questions. The defense attorney may think they know the answers, but you are the only one that truly knows the answer. As long as you can control your emotions and follow these simple guidelines, you will do fine at your deposition. If you tell the truth and stand up for what you believe in, you will be the master of your fate in this difficult situation.