A deposition is a question and answer session held at a law office in which the person being questioned (the deponent) is sworn under oath to tell the truth. This is a part of the discovery process in which the attorneys involved in the case get to learn what the deponent knows. It is also an opportunity for them to observe the appearance and behavior of the deponent. Depositions are recorded by certified shorthand reporters, and transcribed into a booklet form which may be used in the case and at trial.
It is important for you to meet with your attorney before the deposition to learn the ground rules and to prepare. Once the deposition begins, you cannot ask your attorney how to answer a question or to confer with your attorney. In New Jersey, an attorney cannot direct his/her client not to answer a question, and the grounds for objecting are very limited. The attorney cannot make a speaking objection which telegraphs a desirable answer to his/her client. In the event of an issue arising during a deposition that cannot be resolved by the attorneys, they have the option to call the assigned pretrial judge for guidance and a ruling. If your attorney objects, you need to stop talking until the attorneys resolve the objection.
During the deposition, it is important not to guess at an answer, and it is perfectly acceptable to say that you do not know or that you do not recall. If your answer is an approximation of a speed or a distance, it is important to state that it is an estimate. It is assumed that if you answer a question, you heard and understood the question. Also, it is important that you not argue with the opposing counsel (leaving that to your attorney), but it is perfectly acceptable for you to ask counsel to repeat or rephrase the question, or to state that you did not understand the question. If you are shown a document and are asked questions about it, it is critical that you take your time to look over the document so that you feel comfortable discussing it. Be mindful to keep your answers short, and do not volunteer information.
Since the deposition may be the first time that opposing counsel has ever met you, it is important to make a good impression. That means dressing neatly and conservatively, although you do not need to wear a suit in most cases. It also means speaking clearly and making eye contact with the attorney. Defense counsel will share their impressions of you with their insurance adjuster, and a good deposition can contribute to the value of your case.