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Depositions are an integral and critically important part of the legal process. The questions you are asked and each of your answers will be taken down word-for-word. Your answers will provide the basis for your allegations or defenses in the lawsuit. They will also provide the basis by which opposing parties and their lawyers will attack and try to poke holes in your claims and defenses. That’s why you need to know exactly how lawyers operate when it comes to deposition questions.

Lawyers are highly trained, skilled and experienced at the art of deposition questions. And it is an art. They know most people have never had their deposition taken before and are very nervous and scared. Lawyers count on this and the nerve-wracking nature of depositions – and use it to their advantage.

The most common mistake people make regarding their deposition is that they should treat them like normal conversations. Nothing could be more wrong or further from the truth. The normal rules of social etiquette and conversation do not apply to depositions. Depositions are their own world. Wholly separate and distinct rules apply to deposition questions and how you should answer them.

1) Listen to all deposition questions very carefully.
The natural tendency, especially if you are a party to a lawsuit, is to get ahead of yourself. To think you know what the lawyer asking the deposition questions is asking. Do not do that. Instead, treat every one or your deposition questions as if it is the first time you have ever heard anything about the subject .

2) Limit your answers to the scope of the deposition questions.
Unlike normal conversation, when you help the person out who is asking the questions, never do that in your deposition. With deposition questions, answer only what is asked. Here is a perfect example:
Q: What is your name?
A: My name is Roger Sterling and I’m Joan Harris’s boss.

Everything after “Tom Smith” is not responsive to the question and, more importantly, outside the scope of the question. In your deposition, just answer the question and limit your answer to only what is asked.

Here’s another great example:

Q: Are you married?
A: Yes and my wife’s name is Betty Draper.

With regard to deposition questions, the correct way to answer that question is simply by saying, “Yes.”

What lawyers won’t tell you and don’t want you to know is that 9 times out of 10, the additional information you give in response to deposition questions is the precisely the information that does the most damage to your claim or defense. If you limit your answers to just what is specifically asked for in the question, you will be well on your way to a successful deposition and vastly improving your chances of success in the case.

For much more advice on deposition questions and how to handle them, please visit Deposition Rescue.

Jeff L. Williams is a former trial attorney and co-founder of New Media Legal Publishing, Inc