You have received a deposition notice. What do you do? Respond to it. Schedule a deposition. A deposition might feel intimidating, but you’ll survive it.
Deposition services help people to plan depositions, ensuring that you and all other participants can attend. Failure to attend potentially exposes you to civil contempt sanctions. So does refusal to answer questions.
What’s a Deposition?
A deposition is a critical legal device that happens during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. It serves several purposes. First, it allows lawyers to investigate the facts of a case.
Second, it enables lawyers to determine the credibility of a party or witness. Third, a deposition can help legal experts to assess the merits of a case. Forth, it “fixes” a witness’ information, ensuring they cannot change it at trial.
Fifth, a deposition helps lawyers to identify inconsistencies in pieces of information. Finally, it can serve as a party’s trial testimony, to a limited extent.
In a deposition, an attorney questions a witness under oath. A court reporter is present to ensure everything gets accurately recorded. There’s no judge at that point.
What If I Know Nothing about the Case?
Attorneys can make mistakes. You might get a deposition notice even when you know nothing about a case. In such a situation, you can call the lawyer and tell them about the error.
Most lawyers would withdraw the notice. If that doesn’t happen, you must attend the deposition. Of course, your answer should be “I don’t know” throughout the session.
Are there Questions I Don’t Have to Answer?
Yes. You can object to any questions asked. However, a judge can overrule the objection in court. If a judge overrules your objection, you must answer the questions.
Get Prepared for the Deposition
Your lawyer will prepare you for the deposition. But it’s difficult to predict how every step of the process will happen.
The opposing attorney might ask questions designed to annoy or embarrass you or they may keep repeating a question. They do this hoping you will say something that can help their side. How you handle the questions can help or work against you.
What Questions Can I Refuse to Answer?
There are three categories of questions you don’t have to answer. These are questions that pursue private, irrelevant, or privileged information. Let’s look at each category.
You can refuse to answer questions concerning religious beliefs, sexuality, or health. In some cases, you might choose to answer these questions. However, the opposing attorney must establish there’s a connection between such questions and the case.
It’s not unusual for lawyers to ask irrelevant questions. Irrelevant questions have no bearing on the case’s outcome. Your lawyer will likely object and stop you from answering. If they don’t, you can object to the irrelevant questions.
Privileged information means confidential conversations. Conversations between you and your lawyer, doctor, or psychiatrist are examples of such information. A confession given to a priest is also privileged information.
How Can I Determine Whether a Question is Relevant?
The opposing lawyer isn’t just asking you questions. They have an end in mind — winning the case.
They’ll often ask irrelevant questions to manipulate you mentally. They would like you to provide them with clues to valuable information. Always remember: this is a mental game.
You must decide what questions are irrelevant. It’s pretty easy to distinguish between relevance and irrelevance.
Ask yourself: “would the answer to this question have any bearing on the case?” Suppose the question sought information about your living situation. Is that irrelevant? It depends.
A judge may use such information to decide if your place would be suitable for child custody. That would make the question relevant.
Your lawyer will usually object to some questions. Such questions may include the three categories described earlier and also the following:
- Compound questions: These are questions demanding more than one answer.
- Questions that call for a legal conclusion
- Questions based on assumptions
It’s always best to have your lawyer in the room. A lawyer guides you concerning questions to respond to and those not to answer. Your lawyer’s presence should also make you feel less intimidated by the examining attorney.
Maybe you’re a party in a lawsuit. Perhaps you’re a witness. Or probably a mistake occurred, and you got a deposition notice.
In all these situations, schedule a deposition. Know which questions not to answer. The opposing lawyer and the process itself can be intimidating. But you’ll be alright.