What, When, and How You Answer Can Affect Your Deposition Testimony

One of the worst mistakes people can make in a deposition is forgetting that how and when they answer a question can be just as important as the words they use. If you want to make sure that your testimony is the best possible representation of your side of a case, remember these four tips as you enter the deposition area:

  • Hold the conversation. If you arrive a few minutes early to your deposition, you may be tempted to chat with the receptionist or opposing attorney. However, just answering a simple “How are you?” with an automatic “I’m fine” could hurt your case if the attorney asks how you described your condition to the person at the front desk this morning. This is why you should never discuss any aspect of your case with anyone until the deposition has started (and refrain from doing so after the deposition is complete).
  • Wait to respond. You should always wait until a question has been asked completely before attempting an answer. If you interrupt the opposing attorney, you may give a responsive that is not completely accurate. The best way to make sure that your answer matches the question being posed, repeat the question word-for-word in your head before answering. Don’t be afraid of taking the extra time to respond; it is more important to be accurate in your answers then to leave the deposition early.
  • Say it if you mean it. Giving non-verbal answers can be a hard habit to break, but you must always respond verbally in a deposition. First, the court reporter can only record what is spoken, and a non-verbal response will almost always need clarification (requiring a pause in the deposition). In addition, a nod, head shake, or shrug may easily be misconstrued by members of the court.
  • Remember body language. In addition to what you say with your mouth, you should be constantly aware of the messages you are giving with your body. Slumping in your chair gives the impression that you don’t care; leaning on the table because you are tired can make you seem disinterested. If you are unable to get comfortable because you need a break, tell your attorney and he or she will pause the proceedings.
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