Part 7: Depositions – Being Deposed
Parts five and six of this series explain the importance of depositions and how to adequately prepare for one. Part seven will discuss how to answer questions during your deposition.
- Be Honest
This may seem like common sense, but it is actually quite common for deponents to lie during depositions. Many deponents do not understand that lying during a sworn deposition is considered the same as lying under oath in open court — both carry penalties for perjury. Further, attorneys often form questions to catch deponents in lies, with many then having documented proof to impeach the witness and prove they are lying. The transcript from the deposition is recorded by a court reporter and, thus, can be used by either attorney to advance their client’s case.
- Give Verbal Responses
As mentioned earlier, the court reporter records what happens in each deposition and then creates a transcript. Issues arise when a deponent does not provide audible responses, but instead gives a nod of the head or uses terms like “uh-huh.” If this happens, either one of the attorneys or the court reporter should stop the deposition and ask for a more definite answer. If this occurs often, it can extend the deposition, costing you more time and money. To avoid this extra time and expense, take care to use verbal answers such as “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” etc.
- Understand How the Transcript will Read
What most people do not understand is that the reader of the transcript (usually a judge) has no perception of how long it took you to answer any given question. That is because the transcript does not show the time lapse between a question and answer. In other words, whether you take 2 seconds or 20 seconds before answering a question, the transcript will read the same. The transcript will also not reflect facial expressions, inflection of tone, and other inaudible cues. Thus, although many deponents feel like they need to answer immediately, be sure to take as much time as you need to formulate a complete and accurate response. It should be noted; however, that if an experienced attorney sees this as a tactic, they may indicate on the record the continued delays in answering each question. As such, you should talk with your attorney about what strategy should be used at any given time. (Please note that the advice in this paragraph does not apply to videotaped depositions, which are discussed in part eight of this series).
- Keep Your Answers Specific to the Questions Asked — Do Not Provide a Narrative
Some deponents like to talk, which is reflected in their answers. Unfortunately, this may end up giving the other side more information than they would have otherwise received had you limited your responses to the questions asked. This also occurs when a deponent feels the need to “defend” their answers. Keep in mind that if your attorney feels that any answer you gave needs more explanation, they will have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. In other words, there is no need to feel the urge to extend your answer to defend yourself. Keep it short and to the point, and if your attorney feels the need to follow up later, they will have the chance to do so.
- Don’t Guess
If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. Don’t guess or give approximate answers, as they can be used against you later. One of the most important pieces of advice deponents should heed is not to guess — if you don’t know, say you don’t know, you don’t remember, etc.
- Bring Water and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Break
As you will be talking for potentially hours, make sure you have hydration of some kind and use it at your leisure. Don’t be afraid to ask for a break, whether to go to the restroom or just because you need a minute or two. You may need to finish the specific topic you are on, but you should be granted reasonable breaks throughout the deposition.
If you have been sued or have been subpoenaed to testify at a deposition and need to understand your options, please contact Grewal Law PLLC online today to schedule a free consultation.