Being a Witness

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Recall and review facts of occurrence; before, during, after.
  3. Sketch a diagram for yourself.
  4. Don't answer a question if you do not understand it. Ask for clarification.
  5. Listen to the question. Only answer the question you are asked, not the one you think he meant to ask or the one you think he should have asked.
  6. Answer the question as briefly as possible. A simple "yes" or "no" is best. Do not ramble on. DO NOT VOLUNTEER INFORMATION.
  7. Be cooperative and polite even if the interviewer is not. Do not lose your temper or your composure. Do not argue with the interviewer or ask him questions.
  8. Pay attention to your physical appearance. It is important that you make a good impression on the opposing counsel and the opposing party. You should appear dressed as if you were actually going to court. You should be clean and wear clean, neat clothing. If you are the victim in the lawsuit, come prepared to exhibit all injuries you have suffered.
  9. Treat all persons in the deposition room with respect. Do not be afraid of the lawyers. I will not let the other lawyers be rude or disrespectful to you.
  10. Speak slowly and clearly.
  11. Be careful about time, speed and distance. An incorrect answer as to distance often comes back to haunt you.
  12. Don't guess or speculate.
  13. Answer questions concerning favorable details a definitively as possible. Avoid "I think" or "I guess" if you are sure of the answer and it is a favorable answer.
  14. If your attorney objects - stop talking until instructed to continue.
  15. Know the following:
    1. Date, time, place of accident;
    2. Where going to or coming from at the time;
    3. Physical layout of accident scene;
    4. Who you reported the accident to;
    5. Addresses for a few years;
    6. Employment history;
    7. Your areas of injury - make list;
    8. Your work time lost;
    9. Rates of pay, past and present;
    10. Your out of pocket expenses;
    11. Remarks you made;
    12. Remarks others made;
    13. Names and addresses of witnesses.
  16. Medical history may be questioned. You are not a doctor. You can testify as to what parts of your body are injured, how they got injured and that they hurt. Leave diagnosis and prognosis to the doctors.
  17. Be calm. Take your time before answering.
  18. You have paper and pen. If you have any questions you want to ask, pass them to me. I may or may not ask them.
  19. Read your lawsuit and review all paragraphs with your attorney prior to the deposition.
  20. You may be asked about criminal convictions, other accidents or other medical problems. You must answer these questions unless your attorney objects. Tell your attorney about any arrests or convictions before the deposition starts.
  21. You may be asked if you have discussed your testimony with anyone else. It is normal to have discussed you case or testimony with another. You have discussed it with your attorney. If they ask, tell them.
  22. Be on your guard when the interviewer asks a question beginning with "Is it fair to say...".
  23. You are not required to give just a "yes" or "no" answer, but you are permitted to explain your answer.
  24. Watch your language. Avoid using slang terms. Do not make racial, ethnic or similar comments. Do not make derogatory comments about unions or other organizations. These people may be on the jury.
  25. Do not make unnecessary comments. Don't be "cute" or "smart."
  26. If you have answered interrogatories, please review your answers prior to the deposition.
  27. Avoid statements like "I always...." or "He never ...".
  28. In testifying regarding conversations, MAKE IT CLEAR whether you are paraphrasing or quoting directly.
  29. If asked about a document, ask to see the document and read it completely before you answer.
  30. If the examiner appears totally confused about your business or the technical aspects of your testimony, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EDUCATE HIM. Make him ask you specific questions. You should assume that he has done his homework and that he will not ask any questions to which he does not know the answer.
  31. AVOID ABSOLUTE STATEMENTS like, "Nothing else happened" unless you are absolutely sure. You may remember something else after a pause. A more appropriate answer may be, "That's all I can recall right now."
  32. Testifying for any period can be extremely fatiguing. Be sure to get a good night's rest before the day and eat prior to testifying.
  33. You only know what you have seen or heard. Questions are often phrased "do you know?" A question may legitimately call for something you do not know, but it must be so phrased. There is a difference between a question which asks what you know, and a question which asks whether you have any information or heard something bearing on a particular subject.
  34. Do not let the examiner put words in your mouth. Do not accept his characterization of time, distances, personalities, or events. Rephrase the question into a sentence of your own, using your own words.
  35. Pay particular attention to the introductory clauses preceded by statements which are either half-true or certain facts which you do not know to be true. Do not have the examiner put you in a position of adopting half-truths or unknown facts, on which he can then base further questions.
  36. If you are finished with an answer and the answer is complete and truthful, remain quiet. Do not expand upon it. Do not add to your answer because the examiner looks at you expectantly. If the examiner asks you if that is all you recollect, say yes, if that is the case.
  37. Do not agree to supply any information or documents requested by the examiner. If he asks for document or information, we will either answer the request or will take the request under advisement.
  38. If there is an objection to the question, listen to the objection very carefully. You may learn something about the question and how it should be handled from your counsel's objection.
  39. Avoid even the mildest obscenity. Avoid absolutely any ethnic slur or references which could be considered derogatory.
  40. If you do not recall something, say so. You may then be asked if a statement or document refreshes your recollection. If it does, say so. If it does not, the answer remains that you do not recall. You may be asked whether there exists a document which may help you refresh your recollection.
  41. You are the witness- not the lawyer. Do not argue with the lawyer for the other side. Do not try to sell the case. Just answer the questions.
  42. Watch out for questions that paraphrase your answer. For example, the lawyer examining you may say, "So what you're saying is..." Lots of times the lawyer may take your ideas and put them in other words - changing your meaning in ways that you might not catch at the time. If the lawyer asks if his paraphrasing is accurate, you are entitled to say that you would rather stand on your answer and stick with the way you put it.
  43. Admit preparing for the deposition. There is nothing wrong in going over your testimony in advance. It would be irresponsible not to.
  44. If you discover you have made a mistake in your testimony, let me know before the deposition is over. We will fix it. Mistakes do not correct themselves.
  45. If you get tired, ask for a break. If you need to go to the bathroom, or get a cup of coffee, say so.
  46. During breaks or after the deposition is over, do not chat with the opponents of their attorneys.


The most important aspect of your lawsuit is you. If you are earnest, fair, and honest you will be taking a great stride toward the successful completion of your case.

After you have read this, please note any questions you may have and discuss them with your attorney before your deposition or court testimony is taken.

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