Probate Lawyer

What Should You Not Say During a Deposition? Essential Guide

What Not to Say During a Deposition

If you are participating in an upcoming deposition, you know that the information you share can greatly impact the case. However, in some cases, what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. Educating yourself on what not to say during a deposition is a crucial part of proper preparation.

What should you not say during a deposition? There are several guidelines to follow when it comes to what not to say during a deposition. You should never share information that is based on speculation or assumption. It is also important that you do not volunteer any additional information beyond that which is requested.

In addition to the guidelines listed above, there are several other things you should avoid during your deposition. After reading this article, you will be prepared to successfully participate in your upcoming deposition.

What is the Purpose of a Deposition?

Deposition TipsA legal deposition is a type of official meeting that will take place during the discovery phase of a case. During this gathering,  the opposing lawyer will ask you, the deponent, several questions pertaining to the details surrounding the case.

Depositions do not take place in a courtroom and there is not a judge present. However, they are still a legal meeting. You will be under oath and required by law to answer the questions presented by the opposition with the full truth.

The purpose of a deposition is to provide the opposing lawyer with additional information that they will use in the creation of their case. The questions asked by the opposing lawyer may include basic information about your background. However, the final stage of the deposition will focus on the details surrounding the case. 

It is during this final segment of questioning that the deponent often begins to feel the pressure of the meeting. Proper preparation can provide you with insight into the right way to answer questions while ensuring that you do not open yourself up for unnecessary criticism or attack.

Things to Avoid During a Deposition

The most important thing to note about a deposition is that you will be sworn in under oath. Because of this, it is important to answer each question truthfully. However, it is important to be careful to not fall prey to one of many common tactics used by opposition lawyers during their depositions. Here are a few things to pay attention to while you are giving your deposition.

Never Guess to Answer a Question

Since you have taken an oath before beginning your deposition, it is important that the information you provide is accurate. For this reason, never make assumptions or guess when answering a question. 

Only share information that you know to be true, that you witnessed first hand, or that you have prior experience of. If you are not sure how to answer a question, simply share that information in a clear way. An answer such as “I am not aware of that situation.” or “I do not know.” is sufficient in this situation.

Avoid Any Absolute Statements

You should never use any absolute statements during your deposition. Words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ can be used to trap you into a statement that is not entirely true. For example, if you say you “always stop at a red light” but the opposing lawyer confirms that you did not stop at one red light, your trustworthiness will be in question.

Do Not Use Profanity

One bad habit which can negatively impact the impression you make during the deposition is the use of profanity. Not only can this offend others but it can also give insight into the fact that you are reacting to the stress of the situation. Avoid using any form of profanity or filler words that could be viewed negatively by any participant.

Do Not Provide Additional Information

During a deposition, the job of the opposing lawyer is to ask the deponent questions. Your role as the deponent is to answer the questions that are asked of you. However, it is not your role or responsibility to provide additional information beyond what the basic answer requires.

Answer each question with a clear and concise answer. If the lawyer requires additional information, they will ask a follow-up question. Providing excess information could cause you to reveal a fact that the opposing party could use against you during the case.

Avoid Making Light of the Situation

Sometimes deponents will rely on jokes to deal with the stress of a deposition. This should be avoided at all costs. Never make light of the situation, or the questions you are asked. It is important to approach the deposition professionally, with a serious demeanor.

Never Paraphrase a Conversation

It is best to avoid mentioning a conversation you have had in the past with another individual. If you must mention a conversation, make it clear that you are paraphrasing, not quoting the conversation word-for-word.

Do Not Argue or Act Aggressively

During your deposition, you may find yourself becoming angry or defensive. Many opposing lawyers will take advantage of these situations and try to get you to provide information that is based solely on emotions. 

It is important that you do not argue with the opposing lawyer or act aggressively in any way. These types of behaviors will reflect negatively on your character and may even impact the end result of the case.

Avoid Providing Privileged Information

There are some types of questions that a lawyer is not allowed to ask during a deposition. The lawyer who is representing you will likely object to these deposition questions. Questions involving personal information, privileged information, or irrelevant information are against the rules unless the opposing lawyer can explain why the answer is relevant.

You can learn more about how to answer questions in a deposition here.

Preparing for a Successful Deposition

Proper preparation not only improves the probability of a successful deposition but it also goes a long way in quieting any nerves you may have around the event. Beyond educating yourself on things you should not say during a deposition, there are a few other things to keep in mind.

Your probate lawyer will be able to provide you with more in-depth information regarding the questions they will most likely ask you during the deposition. While it is important to review potential questions and their answers, it is best to not memorize or rehearse your answers. Memorizing answers can cause you to give your deposition without thinking through each question as it is asked.

Another part of successful deposition preparation is preparing your outward appearance. Although the outcome of a deposition largely depends on the information you provide, your physical appearance can play a role in how you are perceived. This is especially important if your deposition is recorded on video, a common practice for depositions.

You can find a complete guide for proper deposition preparation here.

How to Act During a Deposition

During your deposition, it is important that you maintain a professional demeanor despite the tense circumstances. Avoid discussing any aspect of the deposition or the case with your lawyer or any other individual before or after the deposition, or on breaks. Remember, the purpose of a deposition is not to build relationships.

Stay in control of your emotions. Do not let anger, anxiety, or fear show through your answers. If you feel as if you need a break to collect your thoughts, simply request a few minutes to do so. It is important that you remain in control of your demeanor and emotions in order to complete your deposition successfully.

Preparing for and participating in a deposition can be quite stressful. As the deponent, you will likely feel large amounts of pressure leading up to the event. However, with the proper preparation, you can enter your deposition feeling composed and confident. 

By educating yourself on what not to say during a deposition, you can protect yourself and your testimony. Remember, what you don’t say during your deposition can be just as important as what you do say! 

Find additional Deposition Tips & Training here.

Related Questions

How is a video deposition different from a regular deposition? Video depositions are becoming much more popular as they provide additional insight into the information shared by the deponent. In many ways, a video deposition is identical to a traditional deposition. The primary difference is that, as the deponent, you will be required to speak into a microphone while you are recorded by a videographer. Other than the presence of the legal videographer and their equipment, your experience as the deponent will be identical to a traditional deposition.

What should I wear to my deposition? Although your deposition will not be held in a courtroom, it is still an official legal meeting. Because of this, it is important that you dress appropriately. Proper attire for a deposition includes business clothing such as a dress shirt and slacks, or an appropriate dress or skirt for women. Avoid wearing any flashy accessories or bright colors as to not draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Additionally, it is wise to cover any piercings or tattoos that would be offensive to any of the parties involved in the deposition or courtroom trial.

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Matt McWilliams
matt@mcwilliamsmedia.com