I am being questioned…What the heck does that mean?

When you are involved in a lawsuit you will eventually come to a point where you will be the subject of a questioning (formally called an examination for discovery). A questioning is simple procedure that happens in most law suits and it is an opportunity for each side to ask questions of the other side in a formal setting to learn about the other sides case.

Everything that is said will be recorded and can be used as evidence if the lawsuit goes to trial. All of your answers will be given under oath or solemn affirmation which is your promise to tell the truth.

Usually the plaintiff’s (the person who is suing) lawyer will ask the defendant (the person being sued) questions first and then the defendant’s lawyer will ask the plaintiff questions. Both sides can also question other witnesses that are involved in the lawsuit.

The questions can be about anything that is related to the lawsuit. A questioning is also used to discover new things that could be related to the lawsuit. You should only be asked about the facts, not about your opinions. This means when you are answering only provide the facts.

Your lawyer will be there when you are being questioned to make sure that you are only being asked appropriate questions. You’re lawyer is not there to answer the questions for you but they can assist if you are confused or there is a legal issue with a question.

If your lawyer answers a question or speaks on your behalf for any reason you will be asked to adopt their answer, this means you agree that it is your answer and at trial it will be just like you gave the answer so only say yes if you agree.

Do‘s and Don’ts

Do

  • Be prepared – re-read the documents related to the lawsuit (if there are a lot of documents ask your lawyer what is important)
  • Tell the truth – you are under oath
  • Answer the question and then STOP talking
  • If you don’t understand the question ask for clarification
  • If you don’t know the answer say so
  • If you don’t remember say so – this is much better than guessing
  • Only give facts don’t give opinions
  • Be confident in your answers
  • Always give a verbal answer
  • Be cooperative and polite
  • Ask for a break if you really need one (if you need the bathroom, to get water, or you are exhausted)

Don’t

  • Lie
  • Guess
  • Speculate
  • Offer Opinions
  • Nod or shake your head to answer a question
  • Answer a question if you lawyer objects, wait until the lawyers stop talking and give you instructions
  • Get into arguments with the other sides lawyer (answer the question and stop)
  • Don’t ramble
  • Don’t answer with or volunteer information that you weren’t asked to give.
  • Don’t speculate or guess.
  • Don’t give partial answers

The Stop Light Rule

1. Listen

Listen to the question. This means… Don’t talk while the question is being asked only one person speaks at a time. Pay attention when the questions are being asked.

2. Understand

Understand the question. If you don’t understand the question ask for clarification. Don’t guess what the question might have meant. Make sure you wait hear the entire question.

3. Answer

Answer the question and ONLY the question. Give as much information as is necessary to properly, truthfully and fully answer the question.

4. STOP!

STOP! Don’t keep talking or volunteering information just because there is an awkward silence.