Unless you'll be suing in small claims court, there are a number of things that will happen before your case will see the inside of a courtroom; one of which is you'll be required to give a deposition. This is where you meet with the defendant's attorney and provide testimony about the events that led to the lawsuit against the defendant as well as the damages and losses you sustained as a result. Your deposition can have a major impact on your case, so here are three tips for ensuring your testimony helps rather than hurts your chances of receiving compensation.
Look Your Best
Even though you won't be in front of a judge or jury, it's still important to take care with your appearance and mannerisms. While the primary goal is to get your version of events on the official record, a secondary goal of the defendant's attorney is to judge your credibility and likeability. As nice as it is to think a judge or jury will decide on your case based strictly on the facts, biases do creep in. If a member of the court doesn't like how you look or are repelled by your mannerisms, he or she may be less willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, which may result in a lower monetary award or losing the case altogether.
The defendant's attorney will be judging you with this in mind, so the better impression you make on him or her, the more likely the lawyer may encourage the defendant to settle the case for fear you may win more money than the defendant is willing to pay. Therefore, be sure to dress for the meeting as you would for court. Wear clean, pressed clothes that cover up tattoos and style your hair neatly. Speak confidently and clearly, and keep a tight rein on your temper. The defendant's attorney will try to rile you, but displaying anger or irritation will only hurt you in the end. If need be, practice answering questions with your attorney or a trusted loved one until you feel confident you can hold your own during the deposition.
Listen Before Answering
During the deposition, it's important to completely listen and understand the question before answering it. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, you may give the wrong response if you're not completely certain what the questioner is asking. This can lead to contradictory statements that may be used against you when your case goes to trial.
Second, the defendant's attorney may ask you questions that don't make logical sense. Most of the time, this is because the person is confused or not sure what he or she wants to know. However, sometimes the lawyer will do it on purpose to trip you up. Don't be afraid to ask the questioner to repeat the question or clarify what he or she is asking. Additionally, feel free to say you don't know if you truly don't have an answer. It's better to express your ignorance than give an answer you're not sure about and have it come back to haunt you later on.
Immediately Correct False Information
If you do end up making a false statement because you misunderstood the question or remembered something incorrectly, correct the record as soon as possible. Try to do it when an opportunity presents itself during questioning (e.g. the attorney asks a follow up question). If that's not possible, tell your attorney as soon as you're done so he or she can correct the record. This reduces the risk the defendant's attorney will use the misstatements against you if you end up going to court.
For more tips on preparing yourself for a deposition, work with local law firms like Hardee and Hardee LLP.