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This is the first segment of a series of articles concerning useful tips for deponents when put in the "hot seat" brought to you by Pembroke Pines personal injury attorney, Mark D. Dickstein, of The Dickstein Law Firm.
All lawyers cringe before their client's deposition because what comes out of a party representative's mouth (plaintiff or defendant) can make or break a case. Over the next few months, I will be submitting basic guidelines that all deponents should follow to ensure the best results possible when questioned by the adversary attorney. Take these points as suggestions and not gospel.
1. Do not try and beat the attorney at his or her own game. This is what they do for a living, so it's important for you to understand what your roll is as the deponent. That is, you are to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you can't remember that, there will be a court reporter there to swear you in under oath at the start to help remind you. Failure to tell the truth not only can destroy your case, it can subject you to a fraud and/or a misrepresentation defense which may not only dismiss your claim, but also require you to pay the other side's costs or worse, punish you criminally depending on the circumstances. I tell all of my clients that when they are deposed, they need to believe that the person asking questions already knows the answers. Moreover, they need to think that the defendant has hired investigators to do constant surveillance and film what they have been up to on a daily basis. If those thoughts are in the back of your head while you are on the hot seat you should be able to provide truthful responses to the questions asked.
2. Don't feel as if you have to have an answer for every question. If you don't know just say, "I don't know". If you can't remember just say, "this is the best I can recall". Don't substitute "I don't know" with "I don't remember". They are completely different answers.
3. Remember! This is not a conversation you are having with the person asking you questions. It's more like an interrogation than a discussion. So you need to listen to each question, think about it, and only answer that question. Do not volunteer more information than necessary. Make sure you understand the question and if you don't, you must tell the attorney to rephrase the question or tell him or her you don't understand what they are asking.
4. Do not speculate or guess, unless you are asked to approximate and you qualify your response by saying that you are speculating. Do not feel obligated to speculate or guess just because the questioner makes you feel like you should know the answers.
5. Make sure you are positive, assertive, confident, strong and as precise as you can be. Everything you say is being recorded by a court reporter word for word so it's very important that what you say is truthful to the best of your knowledge and belief. Oftentimes, your deposition will be videotaped. While this may make you more anxious and nervous, it shouldn't if you follow the above instructions.
6. The term "Dress for Success" applies here. That doesn't mean you have to go out and purchase an Armani suit. It does mean that you should dress as if you were going to an important business meeting or a job interview. Normally, the deposition is the first time the attorney on the other side gets to see you. This is the time that they measure you up and down to see how you present yourself. Following the deposition, they may contact the person responsible for authorizing the amount of money they may offer to resolve your claim. Appearances count.
Mark D. Dickstein is Managing Partner for The Dickstein Law Firm. The Dickstein Law Firm is located in Pembroke Pines, FL, and represents clients involved in personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death claims, automobile accidents, product liability cases, workers' compensation claims, retaliatory discharge lawsuits, medical malpractice claims, slip and fall injuries, property loss disputes, hurricane damage losses and music business law agreements and disputes. To learn more, please visit the law firm's website at www.flahurt.com.
Please do not consider the content contained in this article as a substitute for actual legal advice from counsel who has been retained and/or consulted with, as most cases have their own unique set of facts and require detailed information to properly analyze and form an appropriate legal strategy. This article is intended for informational purposes only.
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