Debt collectors rarely take the depositions of the people they are suing because it is expensive. But sometimes the debt collectors will spend the money to take a deposition, so you should know what that means.
First, what is a deposition? A deposition is basically a question and answer session. A lawyer will be asking you questions, and you will be answering them under oath. That means you will be swearing to the truth of your answers. And that in turn means that your answers can be used in two important ways: anything you admit will pretty much be considered proven; and anything you say can be used as evidence in trial either to prove a point or to make you look like a liar.
What will actually happen is that you will receive what is called a “notice of deposition” naming a date, time and place for you to appear to be deposed. If that time is not convenient, you should say so. You should negotiate a time and place that is relatively convenient for you-but don’t think you can avoid the deposition. You can reschedule it, but you’re going to have to go if they want to depose you. That’s okay. Usually the notice will say something like “starting at 9:00 a.m. and continuing from day to day until completed. Your deposition will likely take under two hours, but you do want to give it plenty of time so that you are not rushed into giving less careful answers.
On the day of the deposition, you will go to the debt collector’s lawyer’s office. People will probably be very nice, and it is fine to be nice back. Just remember that anyone you talk to will be associated with the people suing you, and any comment you make may well be recorded. It will almost certainly be told to the other side’s lawyers. So don’t take a sympathetic look or comment from anybody as actual sympathy.
You will go into a conference room where several people already are (or soon will be). There will be a court reporter-someone who will write down the things you and the lawyer say in the deposition-the debt collector’s lawyer and often a junior lawyer too, and probably a representative from the debt collector. Maybe a secretary. It can be quite a crowd, but don’t be intimidated. What’s going to matter is the questions you get asked and the answers you give.
You will be “sworn in” by the court reporter, and then the lawyer will ask you a series of questions. You will answer these questions, and your answers, recorded by the court reporter, will be your “testimony.” Remember that you must understand the question as it is actually spoken. Depositions often sound like conversations, but they are not. In conversations you will intuit what the other person actually means, sometimes despite what they say. In depositions you must concentrate on understanding the question asked and answer it literally.
Sometimes people say that “no good deed goes unpunished.” I don’t think that’s always true, but in deposition it may be. If you’re hurried into an answer or say something to try to seem nice or understanding, you can be sure it will come back to hurt you. Don’t give your case away.