Civil lawsuits are very different than criminal cases, right down to how the evidence gathering meetings, known as depositions, are handled. If you have a deposition appointment scheduled as a witness, defendant, or plaintiff, going in unprepared could affect the outcome of the whole case. Meet with your lawyer and go over these four tips to make sure you're ready for all the challenges a deposition can throw at you.
Pause to Think
Too many individuals being interviewed during depositions try to answer questions as quickly as possible so as not to appear like they're lying or withholding information. However, this often backfires and results in inconsistent testimony because you didn't take the time to consider the entire question before answering. Mentally count to five each time you're asked a question so you can prepare what you're about to say. One slip of the tongue could tip the balance of the case, so it's essential to only say exactly what you mean.
Avoid Opinions and Speculation
The lawyer holding the deposition is supposed to keep questions simple and to the point and only ask you about verifiable facts. If you're asked a vague or complex question, tell the lawyer that you'd like the question reworded in a simpler way. If any of the questions would involve you guessing, speculating, or assuming something, decline to answer the question and let the lawyer know why you're not giving a response. For example, you shouldn't be asked why a family member acted a certain way unless the lawyer is trying to get information about a health concern or other hard fact. It's not your job to defend the motivations of someone when you can't be sure why they took a specific action.
Speak Privately with Your Lawyer
A deposition can be a stressful and high-pressure situation, so always keep in mind that you're allowed to talk to your lawyer privately before answering a specific question. Don't avoid using this right in fear that it will make you look inconsistent or guilty in some way. Whenever you feel confused or unsure how to handle a specific part of the deposition process, ask for a break to confer with your legal representative.
Watch What You Volunteer
When you're a key witness or a defendant, it's easy to tell too much of your story in the hopes of setting the record straight about what happened. However, every word you say is evidence and can be twisted in different ways by the opposing side's attorney. Only answer the question that is asked and save your extra information so your own lawyer can use it while planning your strategy.
For more tips, talk with an attorney like those at Johnson Law.