A deposition is a legal term used to describe a formal session that is carried out to gather sworn evidence and the testimony of the witness to find out what they know.
During the session, those that are being deposed will be asked several questions. Because the witness is under oath they are required to provide truthful answers.
The opposing counsel will typically begin by asking some introductory questions. For example, they will start by clarifying that you understand that you are under oath and obligated to tell the truth.
They will also ask whether you have previous experience of attending a deposition. Aside from this, they will ensure that you are prepared to answer their questions.
Next, they will move onto questions relating to you. To begin they will ask you your age, date of birth, social security number, etc, essentially questions about your identity.
Furthermore, you will also be questioned on your marital, educational, residential, and legal history.
The next questions will determine how the witness has prepared for the session. They will also ask whether the witness has discussed the case with anyone else and if so, what was talked about. The witness will then be asked specific questions about the case.
Can you refuse to answer a question in a deposition?
In the majority of cases, the deponent is required to answer all questions that they are asked. However, in some circumstances, they can refuse to answer.
If the question relates to privileged information where there are confidential details or private information, the opposing counsel will have to explain how this information bears any relevance to the proceedings of the case.
Finally, if you are asked questions regarding irrelevant information that isn’t going to have any impact on the case, again, you can refuse to answer.
There may even be occasions where the court has stated that certain bits of information cannot be revealed. Your attorney should prepare you for the questions that you are going to be asked.
They will also make you aware of any questions that you shouldn’t be asked and therefore should not provide an answer to.
If you repeatedly refuse to answer multiple questions throughout the session this becomes more problematic. As a result, the lawyer of the defense is likely to mark it for a ruling.
In eventualities where the topic is important and you still do not provide an answer, the judge may then have to get involved. Failing to respond to questions when you are under oath will impact your credibility in the case.
How do you answer tricky deposition questions?
If you are asked tricky deposition questions, you must approach them carefully. Often, the defense counsel will ask questions that the deponent is not qualified or informed enough to answer.
Because of this clients are encouraged to stop and think about their response before providing an answer. If you do not fully understand the question that you have been asked or you don’t think that you heard it correctly, you may ask them to repeat it.
Sometimes the opposing counsel will try to get you to speculate on the case, if so, you should refrain from doing so, especially if you are not provided with the complete picture of the scenario or if what they have presented to you is missing important details.
Instead, you should respond by saying that you cannot comment on such limited information.
The defense may even rephrase what you have said in a previous response to another question. Should they do so, you must ensure that this is a true reflection of your comment before responding.
Essentially, the deponent will need to make sure that they are prepared for the possibility of being asked tricky questions. As such, they will be able to respond correctly.
As mentioned, do not rush into giving a response until you are confident in what is being asked.
How do you avoid a deposition question?
As the deponent is under oath during the session they are required to provide truthful answers to all questions asked. This makes it a little challenging to avoid questions.
In the majority of instances, your attorney will have prepared you thoroughly ahead of the session so that you are ready to answer any questions that you may be asked. As we have touched upon previously, they will sometimes ask tricky questions.
In an attempt to avoid answering a particular question you may begin to exaggerate your response with information that is irrelevant to what you have been asked. This is not recommended because you are required to answer in truth.
If the question that you have been asked to answer concerns personal factors that are not relevant to the case, naturally, it is likely that you will want to avoid responding. Your attorney may also object to the question if they do not consider it pertinent to the case.
Avoiding a question will not be an easy task if it is thought to be relevant to the case you must answer it.
How do you have a successful deposition?
Calmness and honesty will prove crucial in the success of a deposition. An attorney will be able to defend your case but will also be able to prepare you for what you are likely to be asked.
For this reason, before the deposition hearing, deponents are encouraged to meet with their attorneys for a preparation session.
During this time, you can then inform them of any concerns that you may have about the case as they will be able to provide you with more clarification and information.
The success of the case will also rely on the impression that you give to the opposing counsel and judge.
After all, they will be judging you on your credibility. If you appear irritated and annoyed, they aren’t going to develop a friendly impression of your character.
Responding to questions with a truthful answer is paramount. As you are under oath you will face penalties if you provide false answers.
Make sure that you pay attention to the defense and listen carefully to the question that you are being asked.
If you are uncertain of what the defense is asking of you, you can ask them to rephrase it so that it is clearer. You will not be able to respond truthfully if you do not understand the question.
Often witnesses feel compelled to answer even if it is a guess. If you don’t know what the answer is you shouldn’t just give one anyway.
For example, you may be asked specific questions relating to a time or date. If you are unsure, you should make it clear that your response is an approximate.
If you are being questioned about a particular document, look at it and read it before providing any sort of response. If you are unfamiliar with the document presented to you, you will need to alert the examiner of this.
How do you prepare for a deposition?
Preparing for a deposition can seem like a daunting task. Hiring an attorney will make it much easier. Often witnesses are discouraged from preparing for their deposition alone without the assistance of a professional in this field.
If you hire an attorney, they will be responsible for researching your case and preparing you. It is important to consult your attorney if you have any questions about the deposition process.
Before entering the session, review the important details of the case with your attorney. This will ensure that the information is fresh in your mind and because of this, you will be able to answer the questions to the best of your ability. Preparation will put you in a much stronger position for the deposition.
Your attire should make you look professional and credible. Often witnesses are encouraged to dress as though they are attending court or a job interview. Dressing correctly will give the opposing counsel a good impression of you.
What should I bring to deposition?
The documentation that you bring to your deposition can help to support your argument, however, there is a risk of bringing too many documents. You may have been instructed to bring particular documents by your attorney.
If so, you will need to have 3 copies available. One will be given to your attorney, the other to the opposing counsel and you will need a copy yourself. If needed you may then refer to this document during your deposition.
Remember to bring the original document alongside these copies because they may lack quality which makes them difficult to read or understand.
You should only produce documents that have been requested from you. You shouldn’t voluntarily supply documents to the case such as your driver’s license or other types of ID unless your attorney asks you to.
If the opposing party presents you with any documents that you do not recognize, you must make sure that you examine them thoroughly before making any comments.
Do not just assume that the details are accurate if this is the first time you have seen this document.
What should you not say during a deposition?
For many people, a deposition is a very nerve wracking experience, however, it is important to ensure that you do not say the wrong thing.
The information that you provide can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case, so you must make sure that you are educated on what you should not say during the session.
As the deponent, you should not volunteer any information and you should also make sure that any information that you provide is based on the truth rather than an assumption.
You should also avoid telling the attorney that you can supply additional information via documents such as diaries etc.
Furthermore, when responding to the question that you have been asked, you should not rephrase a conversation.
Instead, you must ensure that you speak in full, clear sentences that are easy for the opposing party and case reporter to understand.
You must also avoid conversing with the opposing party or the reporter. Engaging in a casual conversation can have repercussions because you may end up providing information about you that they can then use against you during the case.
When responding to any questions you should not use phrases such as ‘never’ or ‘always’ because these are definitive statements.
Should the opposing counsel find any exceptions or flaws in such claims you will then be considered to have lied.
Also, make sure that your responses answer the question whilst remaining concise and to the point. This will ensure that you only give them the important details that they require and don't end up accidentally telling them more than they need to know.