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In the majority of personal injury lawsuits you are going to be asked to give a sworn deposition. This can be a critical phase of the actual trial process as it will lay the groundwork for and establish in sworn testimony how you perceive the facts of the case.

The process is fairly straight forward and is nothing to be overly excited about. You will sit in front of a court recorder and be asked questions; first by the opposition and then by your attorney. When you are finished, the entire interview will be transcribed into a booklet.

While this isn’t something to lose sleep over, it is something to take very seriously as being a sworn testimony, it is open to the laws that apply to perjury and making false statements.

K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple for Safety)

It is imperative that you don’t volunteer any more information than is absolutely necessary during this phase of the proceedings. It is human nature to want to elaborate and give explanations. Fight this urge. As much as possible, limit yourself to these 5 answers and only expand your answer when called on to do so.

1) Yes.

2) No.

3) I don’t know.

4) I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

5) May we take a break?

Remember, keep it simple, to stay on the safe side.

Yes, No and I Don’t Know

If you are sure of your answer, give it; however, never guess. Remember that the attorney questioning you is there to find holes in your story or find some other way to discredit you. If you guess and guess wrong, you have opened the door for them to call into question anything else that you state in your deposition or may say later in court.

A deposition is not a memory test and not knowing or not remembering is a much better answer than making a misstatement that could bite you later.

I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

Many times a lawyer will ask you a question in multiple parts or in language that could be prejudicial and misleading when seen in written form. If they get too far out of bounds your attorney may object to the form of the question, on your behalf, but keep in mind that he is very limited in the objections that he is allowed to make during a deposition.

If you are asked a complicated question, with many parts, it is likely that there is a trap lying in it somewhere. Your best defense is to say that you didn’t understand the question and ask them to rephrase it in simpler terms.

Bear in mind the advice in the section above, never guess. Even if a question just doesn’t sound right to you and you’re not sure why, have them ask in a different way to be sure you know exactly what the question is.

May we take a break?

A deposition is not an endurance race and as a general rule does not have a time limit. You are permitted, at any time, to request a break without having to give cause. If you start feeling fatigued, need a little time to collect yourself or want to consult with your attorney, you are completely within your rights to ask for a break.

Constitutional Rights

One other thing of note, while lawyers are given a great deal of leeway in the questions they are allowed to ask, during a deposition, e.g. work history, criminal record, health records, mental health, drug use, they are not allowed in any way to violate your constitutional rights to privacy and self incrimination or to ask you to violate the attorney client privilege. If you have a reasonably competent attorney on your side, he will step in should the need arise, but remember they are your rights and you have the privilege of invoking them at any time. You should be careful using these rights though, because they can leave an impression of guilt on your part regardless of the truth.