When a CPA becomes a defendant in a malpractice lawsuit they must understand and navigate the intricacies of the deposition process. Basically, depositions are an opportunity for the plaintiff’s attorney to ask questions of CPA defendants before trial. All video and written transcripts of the deposition can then be used as testimony in a forthcoming trial. While not all lawsuits require depositions, CPAs should prepare for them, as attorneys use content procured through the deposition to essentially build their case.
In a September 2015 article published in Accounting Today, Richard Jorgenson, chief underwriting officer and president of Jorgenson & Company, suggested ten great tips for CPA defendants that enter into depositions:
- It is not the defendant CPA’s job to educate the plaintiff attorney, that is what experts are for.
- Using argumentative language, sarcasm, and even humor during the deposition usually makes CPA defendants appear unprofessional or even hostile.
- Do not administer blame to other codefendants, instead it is important to work cooperatively with them.
- If a CPA defendant does not completely know the answer to any question, they should simply respond with “I don’t know.”
- Keep all answers short and direct. Less is more in this scenario.
- Do not abridge accounting language, terminology or slang to better accommodate a plaintiff attorney’s limited understanding of the field. The less they understand, the less they can manipulate the CPA defendant.
- If the plaintiff attorney asks a compound question, request that one question at a time be asked.
- When asked about a specific fact or law, answer as detailed as possible.
- Beware of a plaintiff attorney’s use of double negatives, they are meant to confuse the CPA defendant into giving the opposite answer they intended.
- Since depositions may be videotaped, CPA defendants should avoid using non-verbal communication as it could potentially divert the jury’s attention from the content of the answer.