How Not to Answer Questions at Deposition
Don't Be ArgumentativeIt may sound easy, but a deposition can be stressful, and that stress can make any witness hostile and argumentative. It is important to keep your cool at all times while being deposed. I have taken many depositions and I am often surprised at how upset a witness can become, whether that witness is argumentative, hostile, abusive to the questioner or to his or her own counsel.
Don't Use ProfanityYou would be surprised that witnesses at deposition fail to recognize that a deposition is very much like a Court proceeding and that the transcript resulting from the deposition can be read into the record before the judge or jury at trial (and can therefore also be before the appellate Court if the matter is appealed).
I have had witnesses use profanity and derogatory remarks at deposition and seen their lawyers bristle with embarrassment.
Don't Answer Questions that Have not been AskedIn conversation, people often volunteer information in order to keep a conversation going and to avoid awkward pauses. At deposition, the witness' job is to answer the questions that have been asked, not to be entertaining to the questioner. Therefore, at deposition, one should limit one's answers to the question before him if at all possible.
Don't Use Self-DeprecationOftentimes witnesses who are not properly prepared for deposition fail to recognize that a deposition is very different from a conversation. In conversation, we tend to communicate in a way that is not necessarily proper in Court, so it is not necessarily proper at the deposition.
For example, in conversation, people tend to be self-deprecating, making remarks like: "My memory is bad, I wouldn't know where my head is if it was not attached to my neck." A statement like that is fine in conversation; in deposition, however, such a statement immediately reduces the Judge or Jury's estimation of the witness' ability to accurately recall information.