One of the most crucial events during a civil case, aside from the trial itself, is a deposition. A Florida deposition is out-of-court oral testimony transcribed in writing for later use in court and for the purposes of gathering evidence in anticipation of trial. Depositions usually take place at the law office of the opposing attorney deposing you. A deposition is sworn under oath. You will raise your right hand and be asked to swear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
A Florida deposition is not fun and they can be long and nerve wracking. A Florida deposition could take anywhere from under one hour to several hours, and in some cases, up to two days to complete. So in addition to telling the truth, it is important you are prepared, as this will ease your nerves which in turn will make it easier to give clear and honest answers. Sometimes an attorney may fail to adequately prepare you for a Florida deposition. He or she may just provide advice such as “just tell the truth”. While telling the truth is very important, this advice alone is not adequate preparation. If you find yourself in this situation, take the following proactive steps to help yourself prepare:
Steps to Prepare for a Deposition in the State of Florida
Request an appointment with your attorney to discuss the facts and circumstances surrounding your case in preparation for your deposition, if he or she has not already scheduled one.
If you have given previous testimony, such as interrogatories– answers to written questions sent by opposing counsel, review them with your attorney. Again, if your attorney does not furnish this information, ask for it. This will help prepare you to give consistent testimony at your deposition, because, in addition to being truthful, it is crucial that you remain consistent.
Take time to refresh your recollection of the scene of the accident. Look up the location on Google Maps, or drive by the location.
Review the crash report. What observations were made about the conditions of the surface of the road, time of day, traffic conditions and weather?
Familiarize yourself with the small details about the accident. Where were you coming from? Where were you going? Are there restrictions on your license; such as glasses or hearing aids? Were you using them at the time of the accident?
Expect hard-hitting questions, such as those concerning whether or not there was anything you could have done to avoid the accident. Insurance companies will try to convince a jury that if the accident was even a little bit your fault, or that if there was something you could have done to lessen the consequences, then the insurance company should be absolved of part of all or all of their responsibility.
Finally, do not stay up all night memorizing what you are going to say at your deposition. It is important to remain alert during the deposition, so it is important to get a full night of rest before your deposition.
Keep answers simple. Remain polite and refrain from being defensive or argumentative. Your experienced trial attorney will take care of this for you at trial. If a yes or no question is asked during the deposition, simply provide a yes or no answer. If you do not remember something, say so. Similarly, if you do not understand the question, say so and ask for clarification. Finally, when answering questions, think before you speak to make sure you answer the question fully. Do not rush to end the deposition. While depositions are not fun, they are incredibly important to your case and worth the extra time it takes to provide clear, consistent and truthful answers.
Okay, so the word “truthful” has appeared numerous times already. Why? Well, first you will swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. This is an oath, the exact same one you will give in court. Lying under oath is perjury and carries criminal penalties that can include a prison sentence. This is absolutely the last thing you want to avoid. Secondly, your civil trial is about credibility–and when you personally take the stand, it’s about your credibility.
If you fail to tell the truth or say something inconsistent at your deposition you will be asked about it by opposing counsel at trial. No one taking the stand wants to be asked “you said something different at your deposition, are you lying now or were you lying then?” Setting aside the risk of a possible criminal trial for perjury, the jury will not look at you favorably if you take the stand and it’s revealed that you have lied under oath during the lawsuit. By lying at a deposition you put your credibility at risk and your case in serious jeopardy.
Finally, dress appropriately. Opposing counsel will use the deposition as an opportunity to use you as a witness during the deposition. Come dressed as if you were going to court as this will demonstrate that you take this proceeding seriously. You do not have to dress fancy, but this is a legal proceeding, not a day at the beach.
Depositions can be scary. In addition they generate some of the most important evidence that will be used at your trial. They also provide the opportunity to demonstrate your credibility or ruin it. Please prepare yourself for a deposition to make sure the proceeding provides you with a chance to demonstrate your credibility at trial.