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  • Writer's pictureKarel Costa-Armas

Lawsuit's Deposition and Trial... How to Prepare.

Preparation for lawsuit deposition
Lawsuit Deposition and Trial preparation. Personal Injury

Many people are called to a deposition or trial without much warning and many fail to prepare. From my early experience as a police officer, I recall depositions being very uncomfortable and sometimes quite stressful, depending on the attorney that deposes you. In the HOA and Condo Management industry, lawsuits or part of everyday life. Sometimes it can a be a simple cease and desist while other times, it can be a lawsuit for six to seven figures due to a personal injury or crime.

In my experience as an expert witness, I have been able to review transcripts from depositions taken mostly from civil lawsuits. My heart goes out to the deponent (person answering questions) as I read and notice the incredible skill and strategy implemented by the attorney. It really is commendable how skilled some attorneys are in their field.

A deposition is a question-and-answer session between the attorney and a witness in a lawsuit or a legal case. The deposition is a way for the attorney to prepare for trial. The attorney is there to ask questions that will favor their side of a lawsuit or case. At times, the deponent (person being deposed) may feel as if they are being blamed for wrongdoing or failing to act in some way. That attorney is simply using whatever strategy they can to get you to say something under oath that can be used in court or trial as the case moves forward. Your answers can sometimes get confusing as the attorney manipulates them to lead into other questions. The average deposition is about ninety minutes. It can seem like forever as you sit there in the proverbial hotseat.

Depositions can be very educational for your career. Chances are that somewhere along the course of you doing your job and the involvement in the case, you may have made a mistake. Don’t worry, mistakes are made every day and most are not illegal. You may learn about someone else’s mistake in the process. All this information will help you in your career because you’ll know better the next time a similar event occurs. You’ll remember the deposition or trial and what you will be asked if a similar event goes to court.

The biggest mistake managers, board members, and people in general make when subpoenaed to a deposition is failing to prepare. Depositions should not be taken lightly. Opposing counsel may at times be less than professional and may even try to ridicule you and attempt to make you confess to doing something you did not do or knew nothing about.

Here are some tips to follow:

  • Prepare for the event, deposition, trial, case, with your attorney. Take the time to ask the attorney about tips for testifying and what questions could be asked. A good attorney on your side will automatically set up a prep time and go over details. They will discuss the strong and weak points of the case and prepare you for your part.

  • During the deposition, if a document is referenced, you may ask to see it. Ask for all relevant reports, video, photographs, other deposition transcripts if applicable, etc.

  • Study for the deposition like a final exam but do not bring anything to the deposition. Anything you bring to assist you in the deposition can be requested from you to be reviewed and you don’t want any “notes” to be in the opposing counsel’s hands.

  • Your answers should be honest answers. Always tell the truth. Do not stretch the truth. Do not bend the truth no matter how stressful it gets. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know”.

  • Think before answering. Do not give too much information. Let the entire question be asked before you answer. If they ask you about something simple such as what color the grass is, just say GREEN and do not provide your opinion about other grasses or grass you saw in another country. You are not there to impress anyone with an opinion. Just answer questions with the simplest answer.

  • If you do not understand the question, ask them to repeat it. You can ask for clarification. A good attorney performing a deposition will usually start off with an introduction that explains you are able to ask a question to be clarified.

  • If in the event of questioning the attorney asks a question pertaining to a report or written document, ask to see that document so you see it then and there and refer to the actual document. Do not guess about what you think you wrote or what someone else may have written.

  • Keep your wits about you. Be calm, patient, and professional. It can very well be a contentious event and you do not want to get upset. Do not show an angry demeanor and let the opposing counsel know you are upset.

  • In the course of being questioned, you may be told of what someone else said or what they did. Do not assume what anyone else’s actions were. - Do not assume you know what someone else saw.- Do not assume you know what someone else did or intended to do.- Do assume you know what someone else was feeling.

  • You cannot be forced to confess you saw or heard anything. Just because you were present somewhere doesn’t mean you heard or saw what others were doing or saying. Imagine being a gathering and several people are all in the same room. As you are having a conversation with someone else, something is happening behind you. You didn’t see them or hear them. Many things can occur within a close proximity, but you may have had nothing to do with it. Stick to the truth and don’t feel pressured to confess.

As I am not an attorney, and I write this from purely personal experience, I invite any attorney reading this to share their perspective and possibly a link for further education. I am sure a professional legal firm’s advice will surpass my own.

This article is not meant to be legal advice. If you are involved in a legal matter, seek the advice of the attorney representing you or your firm.

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