Help, I have been called into a deposition and have no idea what to expect? What should I be aware of?
Being involved in a construction deposition can be a very scary and intimidating event, if you are not prepared for the procedure. Needless to say, I have been involved in several, and what brought this situation to the forefront, was my son, who is in the business, just experienced his first one. As I explained to him, the deposition process is a constant and repeated occurrence, within the construction industry. It seems that we are all suing or being sued, for one thing or another. It just seems like the standard operating procedure of any individual in the construction industry, is to be in repeated legal battles, which will require depositions to be taken.
What are some of the more important aspects of participating in a construction deposition?
- The most important aspect of participation within a construction deposition is to always remain calm and collected. This requirement is universal when it comes to any legal proceeding, whether it is a deposition or a court appearance.
- Answer only the questions that are asked. Do not offer additional conversation or insight into the question. If the question can be answered with a simple yes or no, do it. Do not elaborate. Allow the legal representative to continue the questioning if they want additional information.
- Do not twist your answer. Answer in a very factual and honest fashion. Honesty in this case is the best policy.
- Do not allow the questioning party to manipulate the answer. There will be a tendency for the party asking the questions to create the question in a manner that will generate the answer they are looking for. Do not allow this to occur. Answer the question honestly and simply.
- If you are uncomfortable with the question, do not answer it. Ask for a timeout or recess to discuss with your legal representative.
- Intimidation is a part of this entire procedure. If the questioning party can intimidate you, they will. Do not fall for this typical procedure and answer in an honest and calm fashion with only the facts.
- Do not fall for sympathy. In some instances the questioning party will show a sympathetic position, that is only a set up to confuse you and create an atmosphere of understanding between you and the individual asking the questions. This is only done to produce the desired answers that the individual asking the questions is looking for. Do not fall into this trap!
- In some instances, belittling is used to try to create the impression that the individual being questioned is less than they represent. Do not fall for this entrapment. Belittling is a very common practice that professional litigators like to use, especially if they sense an impressionable individual. Stay focused and only answer the question, honestly and simply.
- Do NOT accept the bait and get angry. The individual that is asking the questions is trying to get you to become angry and react to insults and accusations. Do not take the bait, remain calm and focused only on the answer to the question.
- Do not take sides. It is important that during the questioning, you do not take sides. Again, answer the questions in a simple and honest fashion. Do not be allow the individual to maneuver you to take sides. Answer honestly, simply and directly.
- Do not become frustrated, hassled or reactionary. If you feel any of these symptoms building, simply ask for a recess or a break. It is your right to control the deposition.
- Ask for a question to be repeated. There is NO harm in requesting that a question be repeated if you are not 100% sure of the contents of the question. Do not answer a question that you do not know the meaning or the interpretation of. This could result in an incorrect or questionable answer, which is exactly what the questioning party is trying to accomplish.
- Do not try to appear smarter or more clever than the individual asking the questions. This is not a game of skill or cleverness. This is a question and answer session, that is it.
- Do not assume that the individual asking the questions knows more than you do. Especially in construction, the individual asking the questions, in many cases, has no previous experience in construction and although skilled at showing confidence, has no idea what they are actually asking.
- Do not assume that the individual asking the questions is kidding. There could be several questions that are asked to take you out of your game, irritate you, or simply asked out of total lack of knowledge regarding the topic. Do not allow this approach to disarm or confuse you.
- Take your time. This is not a race, even though the individual asking the questions may attempt to push the proceedings forward and rush your answers. Do not rush! This is very important.
- Wear comfortable clothes, shoes and accessories. Do not assume that this is a ” dress up ” occasion, even if the other individuals may have suits and ties on. Your fashion statement will have nothing to do with the results of this deposition.
- The only thing that matters in a deposition is the questions and the resultant answers. It is important that you remain focused with this understanding and carefully think out your answers.
- If you make a mistake, correct the error. Do not allow the error to be the only recording of your answer. Yes the mistake will be recorded, but your correction will also, make sure you correct your answer if you make an error.
- Prepare yourself for the deposition by reviewing the case and the circumstances that have caused you to be called to the deposition. Try to be as familiar with the situations involving the case as possible.
- Do not eat or drink heavily the night prior to the deposition. You want to feel comfortable, confident and relaxed during the deposition.
- When responding to a question, look the individual asking the question in the eyes. Do not stare and periodically glance over the shoulder of the individual, as to not appear like you are trying to look into their eyes as an exercise or on purpose.
- Sit comfortably, do not slouch and try to appear comfortable and in control of the situation.
- Remain focused and engaged for a comfortable period of time. When you sense that your thoughts are wandering, or that you are not concentrating on the questions, call for a break or a recess. Do not allow the individual that is questioning you, create an environment that has evolved into simply a conversation or a discussion. Only answer the questions, if you find yourself rambling, stop and ask for a break.
- Try not to offer analytical answers, unless you are very confident that whatever analytical values you are answering are 100% accurate. Any deviation will be amplified in the future by the opposing party.
- Try not to offer precise financial information, unless you are very confident of the values your are answering with. Again, any deviation will be amplified in the future.
- Do not offer opinions, conjecture, hearsay, third party comments, etc. Only answer with direct answers based upon your personal information.
A deposition can be an interesting event, or it can be extremely disconcerting and uncomfortable. In many cases, the individual asking the questions is a representative from the opposite side, and will attempt to make this an uncomfortable event. There are various techniques at disarming the individual answering the questions, and each deposition will offer a different set of circumstances, attitudes, human emotions and personal personalities. A skilled individual, who has experienced the deposition process, will adjust to the circumstances and the overall feelings within the room.
You must remain focused, accurate and honest with your answers, and no matter how skilled the individual asking the questions is, you must represent yourself in an honest and sincere fashion.
GOOD LUCK / AND ENJOY THE SHOW!