1. Dress conservatively
and be well groomed as if you were actually going to court.
2. Treat everyone in
the deposition room with respect. Being courteous is one of the best ways of
making a good impression.
3. Tell the truth. Be
honest and straightforward. The deposition is recorded, and you cannot change
your testimony later. A lie may lose the case. In a lawsuit, as in other
matters, honesty is the best policy.
4. Testify only to what
you personally know. Answering a question with "I do not know," or "I do not
remember," or "I do not recall," is appropriate in many circumstances. Do not
be afraid to use these terms, if the situation arises.
5. Answer questions
directly, and do not volunteer any information Give concise answers. If you can
give a "yes" or "no" answer, do so. Avoid answering a question with a question.
It is not your purpose to give the opposing party any more information than you
have to This is no time to convince the other side of the equity of your case.
Answer only the questions asked, and answer them in as few words as possible.
6. Speak slowly and
clearly; talk loudly enough so that everyone can hear you. Don't chew gum and
keep your hands away from your mouth (both may prevent your answers from being
heard). Do not nod in answer to a question; the court reporter may not
understand what you mean.
7. If you do not
understand a question, ask that it be repeated. Do not answer a question until
you are sure that you understand it. Be on the lookout for questions that have
a double meaning or that assume you have testified to something when you have
8. Take your time.
Remember that there are three pans to every question First, you hear it;
second, you consider the answer in your own mind; and, third, you give the
answer audibly. Give the question enough thought, but also remember that if you
take too much time you may appear to be making up an answer.
9. If you do not know
the answer to a question, admit it. Do Not Guess. Some witnesses think they
must be able to answer every question. You cannot know all the facts, and you
do yourself a disservice if you try to respond when you do not know the answer.
10. Don't lose your
temper, no matter how hard you are pressed. If you do so, you have played into
the other side's hands. If you lose your temper, you may lose the case.
11. Don't look at your
lawyer for help; you are on your own. If you look at your lawyer when questions
are asked, it creates the impression that you are uncertain or have been
12. If we object to a
question, stop talking. After we object, we will tell you whether or not to
answer the question.
13. Don't fence or
argue with the lawyer on the other side. He has a right to question you, and if
you argue with him or give evasive answers it will harm your lawsuit. If you do
not remember, tell the lawyer you do not remember. If you think a question
should not be answered, but your lawyer does not make an objection, be sure to
answer the question anyway. If the opposing lawyer fails to ask you questions
that you think are important, do not try to give the information unless you are
asked for it. Do not volunteer facts or answers to questions you have not been
14. Beware of questions
involving distances and time. Do not attempt to answer unless you have good
reason for knowing. If you do make an estmate, be sure that everyone
understands that you are estimating. Think clearly about speeds, distances and
intervals of time. Remember that time can easily be computed from distance and
speed, and that speed can just as easily be computed from time and distance Be
sure that your estimates are reasonable. If you don't know, don't try to guess.
15. Remember that a
deposition is an important and serious proceeding. Don't become overly friendly
or tell jokes to the opposing lawyer. Even if the lawyers engage in informal
conversation among themselves or with the court reporter, you should avoid
16. If you are asked
whether you talked to your lawyer before coming to the deposition, be sure to
answer truthfully. There is no reason for you to hide the fact that you talked
to your lawyer. If you are asked whether your lawyer told you what to say at
the deposition, remember that your lawyer did not tell you what to say; be only
told you to testify truthfully. Your lawyer refreshed your memory for the
deposition by going through the file. Do not ask your lawyer for help during
the deposition. Do not agree to supply any papers or other documents to the
other lawyer. Do not attempt to memorize your testimony If, during the
deposition, you realize that you have given an incorrect or inaccurate answer,
point this out to the other lawyer as soon as you realize it.
17. Give a positive
answer when you can. If the other lawyer asks whether you would be willing to
swear to your version of what you know by reason of seeing or hearing, and you
were there and know what happened or didn't happen, don't be afraid to "swear"
and the impression you make, will have the most effect on the outcome of your
case. If you give the appearance of earnestness, fairness and honesty, and if
you keep these suggestions in mind, you can make a great contribution to the
successful completion of your case.