The deposition process can be intimidating. Even if you are telling the truth, in a deposition, the other side can make it seem like a lie. Clients often fear that they will say the wrong thing, fear they will be ‘tricked’ by the other side, and fear that they will have a panic attack and forget everything. I realized those fears recently when I had a client testify for their motor vehicle accident deposition.
Our Client’s Fear
Going into the deposition, my client feared he would ruin his case by saying the wrong thing. It caused him to lose sleep and question whether to continue with the case. He needed help to relieve the anxiety of the upcoming deposition.
How Garmey Law Helped
The first step in de-escalating a client’s anxiety with their upcoming deposition is to remind them that they are in control of the deposition. Their responses, tempo, ability to control themselves and answers drive how the deposition goes. Once we cover that, I find that the client experiences a switch in their mental dynamic and approach to the deposition, allowing them to take on the rest of your guidance and direction.
The next step is reviewing the three (3) rules I give to each client. I tell them that, as long as they can remember these three (3) rules, there is nothing to worry about:
1) Always make sure that you tell the truth.
The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing more powerful than the truth. I remind people that the truth always comes out, no matter how hard people may try and keep it hidden. It’s like a balloon underwater: it can be held down for a while, but eventually, it will make its way to the surface. If you stick to telling the truth and nothing but the truth, you’re 99.99% there.
2) Always answer ONLY the question that the attorney asks.
Volunteering additional information is the easiest way to give the other side information about your claim or case they may not have thought of. As an example, I say that if the attorney asks you, “What did you have for breakfast yesterday?” you should say, “Toast with butter” instead of, “Well, I woke up early because I had a cough, then I let the dogs out, and I got a cup of coffee because that’s how I always ease into my day. The sun was shining; I remember it was a little chilly that morning. After about an hour, I got some toast with butter, but it was a little burnt, so I …..” No, please, no. Just answer the question they asked.
If you do not understand the question or do not know the answer, it’s always appropriate to say, “I don’t understand the question” or “I do not remember.” If that’s the truth (going back to point 1), you only get in trouble by answering a question you don’t understand. When you answer a question that you think is ‘mostly true’ or you think you remember, you’re stating under oath that this is your recollection. It can open you up to having your memory questioned, and credibility issues will creep into the situation.
3) Ensure you are the politest person in the room.
Without question, they will ask you questions you think are rude, invasive, have nothing to do with the case, or are simply private. While you may feel that way, most of the time, they are allowed to ask you those questions. If a question is overly harassing, I will step in to defend you, but prepare for most of the questions to be fair game. If you can remain polite throughout their toughest questions, you are proving that you would present well before a jury, which is ultimately our goal.
Once we review those rules, our clients can get comfortable with the process and focus on preparing and reviewing the facts of their cases. Referring back to the rules as we prep helps them to approach situations where they will have to answer difficult questions. After going through this, my client felt completely confident going into their deposition, and despite it being a multi-hour deposition, he did incredibly. He said the rules were easy to remember and gave him confidence as he answered the questions, and he was happy that we made it simple for him to remember.