29 Mar Common Deposition Questions (And Tips for Answering Them)
Whether you have been called as a witness for a case or you are conducting one of your first depositions as a lawyer, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the questions that may be asked. The specifics of your individual case will alter the questions to some degree. However, with proper preparation and knowledge of common deposition questions, you will be equipped for success.
In this post, we will be sharing some of the most common deposition questions, as well as tips for answering them. Many of these deposition questions are designed to trap the deponent with the answer they provide. By learning these useful tips for answering deposition questions, you will have clarity as you proceed with your deposition.
Although a deposition can be an intimidating process, preparing yourself with clear, honest answers to some of these questions can enable you to enter the deposition with confidence. Preparation for your deposition will help you to avoid falling into a trip or sharing incomplete information.
Answering Questions During a Deposition
When you are the deponent in a deposition, you will be under strict scrutiny. After all, the point of the deposition is to allow the prosecuting lawyer a chance to discover additional information to assist them in establishing their case.
Always Tell the Truth
During the deposition, you will be sworn in under a legally binding oath. Because of this, it is imperative that you tell the truth as you answer each of the questions. However, by listening to each question carefully, monitoring your physical response, and taking your time to provide the answer, you will eliminate the possibility of sharing misinformation.
Don’t Guess on Information
If a question is asked of you that you do not know the answer to, it is important to be honest about that fact. A simple “I don’t know” is always better than guessing and providing information that is either not true or harmful to your case.
Look Out for Compound Questions
One common trick that lawyers try to pull during a deposition is the use of a compound question. In doing so, they are hoping to trick you into responding to both questions is a specific way. Never answer a compound question with a singular answer. Instead, the questioning lawyer must rephrase their question into two questions, allowing you to answer each question separately.
Verbally Answer Each Question
It is important to answer each question with a verbal answer. Even if the answer is a simple “yes” or “no”, a gesture will not suffice. Verbal answers are the only ones that will go on record during the deposition.
There are many other things to keep in mind as you are answering the questions asked of you during a deposition. You can find more tips on how to act in a deposition here.
Common Deposition Questions
The questions asked during a deposition are typically separated into several categories. These categories include:
- Introductory Questions
- Background Questions (Identification, Residential, Marital, Education, and Legal)
- Deposition Preparation Questions
- Case-Specific Questions
In the next section of this post, we will look into these commonly asked questions and provide insight on how to properly answer them.
Introductory Deposition Questions
Introductory questions are asked for a few reasons. First of all, introductory questions help the deponent to relax. Second, they establish the ground rules for the deposition while the participants are on record. Finally, introductory questions are often used during the trial to maintain the honesty of the witness. Questions a deponent may encounter during this portion of the deposition include the following:
- Are you aware that you are under oath and obligated to tell the truth?
- Have you previously participated in a deposition?
- Are you prepared to answer the questions asked in this deposition?
- Do you take any medications that would prevent you from answering the deposition questions?
- Will you let me know if you do not understand a question in its entirety?
Although the introductory questions are fairly straightforward and easy to answer, it is important to begin focusing on each question that is asked during this portion of the deposition.
Answering introductory questions may not seem as if it is of importance. However, the prosecuting lawyer can find ways to use the answers you provide to these questions against you during the trial.
Background Deposition Questions
Once the prosecuting lawyer has completed the introductory portion of the deposition, they will move on to background questions. These questions are broken into several categories, all with the intent of uncovering your personal history. The questions in this segment may include some of the following:
- What is your full name?
- Does anyone call you another name such as a maiden name or nickname?
- What is your age?
- Where were you born?
- How long have you lived at your current address?
- Do you live alone?
- Where else have you lived?
- Are you currently married?
- Where does your spouse work?
- Do you have children?
- Where do your children work?
- Where did you attend school?
- Do you have a college degree?
- Have you been convicted of a crime?
- Do you have previous involvement with a lawsuit?
- Have you been under arrest for any reason?
A lawyer will sometimes use the questions in this portion of the deposition against you as the deponent. For this reason, it is important to answer the question truthfully while not volunteering additional information. For example, if you are asked if you have been convicted of a crime, simply provide a “yes” or “no” answer. Do not provide details on your conviction unless you are directly asked.
Deposition Preparation Questions
During your deposition, the questions lawyer will likely ask you to share your process of preparation for the deposition. These questions may include topics such as the following:
- Did you prepare in any way for this deposition?
- Was there anyone else accompanying you as you prepared with your lawyer?
- Have you shared any information on this deposition online?
- What documents have you seen that pertain to this case?
Many prosecuting lawyers ask these questions to ensure that you are not violating any attorney-client privilege rules or other regulations.
Case-Specific Deposition Questions
The final, and most intense, portion of your deposition will be the questions that pertain to the case. During this portion, the prosecuting lawyer will ask a series of questions regarding the details of the litigation. You will be asked to share your testimony as well as questioned about other relevant information.
Although every question asked during a deposition is important, the questions that pertain specifically to your case are often the most challenging. It is crucial to think through each answer before you begin speaking to ensure that your thoughts are clear and concise.
By taking your time to answer each question pertaining to the case, you will avoid falling into any traps that the questioning lawyer is trying to set for you.
Refusing to Answer Deposition Questions
As a general rule, deponents must answer any question that the prosecuting lawyer asks during a deposition. However, there are certain types of questions that a lawyer may ask that you do not have to answer.
As a deponent, you may refuse to answer questions that would reveal personal information, privileged information, or information that is irrelevant to the case.
Deponents do not have to answer questions that involve personal and private information. Examples of this would include sex, health, religion, or other information that is personal and private.
The exception to this rule is when the private information directly pertains to the case in question. If the prosecuting lawyer can prove that the information is relevant, the deponent will have an obligation to answer the question.
Deponents are also able to refuse to answer questions that involve privileged information. The definition of confidentiality varies by state so it is important to know your state laws before the deposition. However, as a general rule, conversations with doctors, priests, attorneys, psychiatrists, and psychologists fall under this category.
You may refuse to answer questions that pertain to information that is irrelevant to the case. If the question has no clear impact on the outcome of the case, it is likely aimed at discovering some other information.
It is important to note that although you may object to answering a question, there are times when you must still provide an answer. In situations where the information directly relates to the case, an uncomfortable answer may actually prove beneficial. Your lawyer will often provide you with guidance on questions that you should not answer during the deposition.
Although the details surrounding your case will vary, it can be helpful to work through some of the most common deposition questions. It is important to not memorize your answers. Simply think through your response to the questions that you may encounter. Doing so will provide you with the best possible outcome of the day of the deposition.
Thank you for reading Deposition Academy! You can find more information about successful depositions here.
This article was sponsored by Gary Crews Law, a probate law firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They specialize in Tulsa Probate Law and Tulsa Estate Planning Law with over 30 years of experience in the industry. You can visit their Tulsa Probate Lawyer website here to learn more.