If you have ever been deposed, you know that it is not the most pleasant experience.  However, there are some basic things to keep in mind that, when followed, will make your deposition a tolerable experience.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

First, always tell the truth.  Attorneys know that no case is perfect and that every case always has facts that support their client’s position as well as facts that support the opposing side’s position.  Attorneys are trained to sort out the facts and deal with them either way. However, attorneys do not like to be surprised later in a case by finding out that their client lied in their earlier deposition.  Such surprise makes the attorney’s job very difficult. So here is the simple rule. A deponent, the person being deposed, is required to answer questions and tell the truth about things of which they have personal knowledge.  This means, as a deponent, you will not be required to answer questions about things you do not know as fact.  You will not be asked for a guess (there is an exception to this as sometimes you are required to estimate, e.g., the car was approximately 10 ft. from the stop sign) or to speculate about what occurred or what someone was thinking at some point in time in the past.  If you are asked a question and do not understand it, say so. You can freely ask for the question to be repeated if you do not understand it. A deponent’s job is simple, tell the truth about facts the deponent has personal knowledge of and that is it, nothing more.

Second, listen carefully to the question being asked. Take the time to make sure you understand the question before you answer it. This will do two things, it will make sure that you only answer the question truthfully based upon your personal knowledge, and it will allow your attorney to analyze the question and object to it, if necessary, before you answer the question.  This second rule is important because if an attorney is going to make an objection to a question during a deposition, the attorney MUST make the objection BEFORE you, as the deponent, answer the question.  So work with your attorney as a team and give your attorney time to properly object, if necessary.

Third, when answering a question, give the shortest answer you possibly can.  By example, if the examining attorney asks a yes or no type question, then only answer, yes or no.  Do not elaborate and offer up a bunch of extra facts because this may be detrimental to your case even if you think you are being helpful.  Answer only the question asked and give the shortest answer you can give while still answering the question.

Fourth, no matter what happens in the deposition be polite, business-like, and very professional.  Do not be argumentative with the examining attorney.  Do not to get defensive. Do not have a chip on your shoulder or act snobbish or condescending.  This goes to your body language as well as the tone of your voice.  Make the examining attorney work for the answers to their questions but do so in a very business-like and professional manner.  This will make you and your attorney look very prepared and ready for anything.

Fifth, always listen to your attorney.  If your attorney asks you to take a break, then agree to take a break.  Your attorney is probably asking to take a break for a reason.  Listen to your attorney’s advice during breaks as this is a good time to correct misstated answers or receive some instruction from your attorney.

So, if followed correctly, what do the above rules really do for you and your attorney in your case?  It prevents issues further down the road in your case and makes the examining attorney really work for the answers to their questions.  Meaning, to do anything but follow the rules above means that you are actually helping opposing counsel and the party or parties that that are adverse to you in your case.  So don’t help the adverse parties in your case.  Your job as a deponent is simple, just plainly answer the questions truthfully about your personal knowledge with the shortest answer possible.  Answer in a professional and business-like manner giving your attorney time to object, if necessary, and always listen to your attorney.

Please keep in mind that the above topics are really just some of the basics for depositions.  If your deposition is going to be videotaped, you and your attorney may need to spend some additional time preparing for your videotaped deposition.  Anyone facing a deposition should speak with their attorney plainly about their concerns and listen carefully to their attorney’s advice.  For more information about depositions, you are encouraged to contact the Chilina Law Firm or another attorney who practices litigation for more information.

Authored by Greg Chilina and Co-Authored by Karen Chilina

Chilina Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, is a full-service estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, and real property law firm that provides a wide-range of advising, transactional, and litigation services to its clients from its office located in Atascadero, California. The firm’s attorneys represent individuals and business entities in an assortment of transactional and litigation matters involving estate planning (including trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives), probate, trust administration, as well as general business law, contracts, corporate governance, land use, and real property. Chilina Law can be contacted by telephone at (805) 538-5038 or by email at info@chilinalaw.com or visit the Chilina Law Firm at www.chilinalaw.com. Chilina Law Firm is based in Atascadero, California and serves North San Luis Obispo County communities, including Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

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