What should you expect in a deposition?

A deposition is where a lawyer gets to question a party to a lawsuit about what they know about the facts of the case. When these questions are administered under oath and recorded by a court reporter, the process is called a deposition. Statements made in a deposition can be used in court. So what should you expect if your deposition is going to be taken?

First, your lawyer will accompany you to your deposition, and will object to any improper questions from the other side’s lawyer. Your lawyer will also advise whether you should answer the question that was objected to. But for the most part, you will need to answer the questions the other lawyer asks. Sometimes people are nervous about depositions, but remember, a deposition is not a test of your memory. There is no one grading whether your answer is right or wrong. Instead, the correct answer is what you recall at the time of the deposition. That’s it. If you can’t remember, it’s perfectly fine to say you don’t remember. In this regard, depositions are quite easy: all you have to do is tell the truth about what you know.

Sometimes, you may not know an answer exactly, but you remember enough to give an estimate. For example, you may not remember exactly how fast you were driving, but you may remember that it was between 30 and 35 mph. If that is the case, it is ok to say something like, “to the best of my memory, I was going about 30-35 mph.” Unless you remember something exactly, it is always a good idea to preface your answer with “to the best of my recollection.”

If you listen closely to the question and answer just that question, you will do fine. Try not to answer what was not asked. Now I know in normal conversation we talk like this all the time. We elaborate, we illustrate, and we anticipate what the other person may be asking and may want to know. But in a deposition, you don’t want to do this. For example, let’s say you’re asked this question: “what date did you first see the doctor for your injuries?” Here are some possible answers. The first answer is good, the second one not as good, and the third is the worst:

  1. The day after the crash, so April 5th.
  2. April 5th at about 2:30 pm.
  3. Well, let’s see: it was a Monday and I’d just got done helping my brother move, so April 5th.

Now why is the first answer the best? Because it answers the question that was asked and no more. Answer #2 is ok, but it adds the time when you weren’t specifically asked what time you went to the doctor. If the lawyer wants to know this, let him ask. No need to volunteer information. Answer # 3 is the worst because it not only goes beyond the question, but it leads to other questions the lawyer may not have thought to ask. With an answer like #3, the lawyer will likely ask follow up questions like “tell me about helping your brother move. How could you help him if your back hurt? Did you lift any heavy items? How heavy?”

Now in reality, it may be that you didn’t lift anything and simply helped drive the moving van. But there was no need to go into all this because that was not part of the question. If the lawyer had asked “what did you do before going to see the doctor that day,” then sure, you would tell him about helping your brother move. But volunteering information that was not asked for only prolongs the deposition and can lead to lots of other questions about things the lawyer may not have planned to ask about.

So, four major tips which if followed, should result in giving a good deposition:

  • Tell the truth;
  • Unless you know exactly, say your answers are to the best of your recollection,
  • If you don’t remember, say you don’t remember, and
  • Listen to the question and answer only the question that was asked.

Emery Wang

Emery Wang

Emery Wang has been a lawyer in Oregon since 2009. While attending Lewis & Clark law school, Emery worked as a Multnomah County District Attorney, and since then has been a full time personal injury lawyer.

Vames, Wang & Sosa Injury Lawyers focus on vehicle crashes, personal injury, and first-party car accident insurance claims. They have offices located in Gresham and Hillsboro.

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