Top 5 Biggest Deposition Mistakes
Lying – Perjury is a felony and can result in a $10,000 fine and up to four years of jail time. See Penal Code section 118. Moreover, you will likely lose your case if you get caught in a lie. Depositions usually take place after months of written discovery, so the questioning attorney usually knows the answers to most of the questions they are asking. I know, I know… if they already know the answer, why do you need to undergo a deposition? The questioning attorney is getting your story down under oath and sizing you up to see how you will do at trial. If you lie or provide inconsistent testimony, the questioning attorney will catch it and come after you like a ferocious dog. It's not worth it.
Speaking over each other – The court reporter controls the deposition. If you speak over the questioning attorney, the reporter cannot transcribe your testimony. Instead, they will put their hands up and admonish you to follow the rules. Do your best to keep calm and speak one at a time.
Not thinking – At some time during the deposition, you will calm down and start feeling more comfortable with the process. While this is great, it can also be dangerous. Your testimony drives your claim, so you need to be thoughtful about your answers. Every 30 minutes or so, remind yourself that this is a serious process, not a conversation.
Volunteering too much / Rambling – Your objective is to complete the deposition quickly and efficiently. To achieve this goal, you must listen closely to the questions and provide concise answers. If you can answer with a simple yes/no/I don’t know, just do that. Often, clients end up wasting hours of everyone's time by offering lengthy explanations or providing answers to questions that were never asked. Sometimes, rambling will educate the questioning attorney about your weaknesses and give them extra ammunition to use against you.
Not preparing – Preparation is absolutely critical before a deposition. We always schedule deposition prep sessions with our clients well in advance of the deposition date. We usually start with a telephone preparation session to go over the basics and answer the client’s questions. Next, we schedule an in-person or virtual mock-deposition session. During this mock deposition, we pretend to be the defense attorney and go through the major lines of questioning, breaking character every once in a while to provide feedback. We get the client comfortable with the deposition process and help them find the best path of words for the big questions. Usually, clients get done with their real deposition and feel surprised how similar it was to the mock-depo. This is our goal and preparation is key.
This is not legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer to discuss your specific case. Consultations are free.