A deposition is a legal proceeding when you provide under-oath, out-of-court testimony for an ongoing lawsuit. The deposition will probably take place in a law office, and the judge will probably not be present. You will likely face questioning from the defendant’s lawyer, and that’s going to be the hard part.

Understanding what to expect in a deposition for a personal injury case can help you be better prepared.

1. Rehearse Extensively

Rehearsing is the most important preparatory step. 

It should include at least the following sub-steps:

  • Learn the material by heart.
  • Rehearse the deposition with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer to prepare you for hostile questioning. 
  • Carefully study any documents you will testify about. If the opposing lawyer surprises you with a new document on the stand, demand time to review it before testifying about it.

There’s no better way to prepare for a deposition than deliberately subjecting yourself to brutal cross-examination. The more you practice, the better you will perform at your deposition. 

2. Dress Appropriately

Dress like you were attending a business meeting. It’s more important to dress well for a court appearance and for a deposition.

3. Don’t Take Notes With You 

If you bring notes with you, the opposing party can demand to see them. At the very least, don’t take anything with you that you wouldn’t want the opposing party to see.

4. Tell the Truth

In all likelihood, some of your testimony will constitute admissible evidence, and some of it won’t. Either way, however, lying under oath can get you into a lot of trouble. In a worst-case scenario, a perjury conviction can result in a prison sentence. Even if it doesn’t, getting caught lying can destroy your credibility and cause you to lose your claim.

5. Don’t Answer Using Body Language

Don’t nod or shake your head in response to a question. The court reporter cannot record either one of these gestures as a “yes” or a “no.” You have to speak out your answers verbally.

6. Keep Your Cool

A hostile lawyer will try to rattle you because they can get what they want out of you that way. 

Strictly follow these two rules: 

  • Don’t get angry. 
  • Don’t allow the lawyer to intimidate you.

If you can’t help but get rattled, try not to let it affect your testimony.

7. Take Your Time Answering

Your deposition will not be timed with a stopwatch. You can afford to take your time answering questions, and you definitely should. Hurried answers to deposition questions usually lead to bad answers, which the opposing party will gleefully exploit.

8. Listen Before You Speak

Answer only the question the attorney asks you. During rehearsal, you will probably be surprised at how easy it is to assume the nature of a question instead of listening to what the lawyer is actually asking you. 

If you don’t understand what the lawyer is asking you, don’t be afraid to request clarification. Treat information like currency and give away as little as possible to the opposing party’s lawyer.

9. Don’t Answer Trick Questions

Since there will be no judge at the deposition to rule on any objection, the opposing party’s lawyer might feel more comfortable asking you trick questions that they wouldn’t dare try in court. This is especially likely if you don’t bring a lawyer with you. 

Five examples of trick questions are loaded questions, leading questions, compound questions, argumentative questions, and hypothetical questions. 

The following are examples of each of these: 

  • Loaded question: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” This is an extreme example of a loaded question unless it has already been established that you have beaten your wife.
  • Leading question: ”You were drinking beer the night of the accident, weren’t you?” Notice that this question sounds more like an accusation than a question.
  • Compound question: “How fast were you driving, and do you think your speed was appropriate given the weather conditions?” Notice the question is really two questions in one.
  • Argumentative question: “Don’t you think it’s rather convenient that you started feeling pain only after you realized you could file an insurance claim?” This question is designed more to provoke than to elicit information.
  • Hypothetical questions: “If you had seen a wet floor sign just before you slipped and fell, would you still have walked through the area?” Note that it’s often OK to ask an expert witness a hypothetical question.

There are many more kinds of trick questions that opposing counsel might ask you.

10. Avoid the Narrative Fallacy

The narrative fallacy is a trap we all fall into from time to time. The world is a confusing place, and it provides us with more information than our brains can meaningfully interpret. In response, we might (without even realizing it) construct a story to make sense of the information. We might then “fill in the blanks” with fiction to complete the story. 

The idea is to simplify a complex reality, resulting in oversimplification and falsehood. This is the impulse that causes us to create “conspiracy theories.” You could start filling in the blanks without realizing it, and the results at a deposition could be disastrous.

11. It’s Better to Say “I Don’t Know” Than to Guess

The lawyer will be asking you questions. You will not know the answers to all of them. And you might not have complete answers to any of them. It’s a LOT better to simply say “I don’t know” than to guess. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer as long as it’s true. A guess could constitute perjury.

12. Get a Lawyer

Screwing up a deposition can greatly damage your case (if you are a party). It can also get you into legal trouble, which is all the more reason to hire an experienced Fort Worth personal injury lawyer. A good lawyer can help you before, during, and after a deposition. The best part is that you only pay legal fees if you win.

You Need a Lawyer To Help You Handle a Deposition

Depositions aren’t any fun, at least if you’re the one answering the questions. They can also get you into a lot of trouble if you mishandle them. If you’ve already filed a lawsuit, you might already have a lawyer. 

If you do, make sure and ask your lawyer to help you with your deposition. If you don’t already have a lawyer, then get one as quickly as you can. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107
(817) 420-7000

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
109 York Ave Suite #201
Weatherford, TX 76086
(817) 409-7000