You Don’t Have to Answer Every Deposition Question (And In Some Cases, You Shouldn’t)

Your attorney has prepped you for your deposition. You’re pretty clear on what will happen, who will be present, and what you should do if you are unable to answer a question. But what if you can answer a question, but you don’t think you should?

This is a typical occurrence at many depositions. While the deposing attorney will ask questions that are relevant to the case, they may also repeat questions to make sure your answers are consistent, or ask questions that are meant to embarrass or enrage you. Often, these questions will be damaging to your case if you answer them truthfully—and of course, you have sworn to do so. So what are your options?

Which Questions Shouldn’t I Answer in a Deposition?

You can object to any questions in a deposition, but you may be compelled to answer if a judge overrules the objection in court. In many cases, questions that do not have to be answered fall into three categories:

  • Private information. You have a right to refuse any questions about a person’s health, sexuality, or religious beliefs (including your own). The opposing attorney will have to explain how your answer has a direct bearing on the case in order to compel you to answer.
  • Privileged information. Confidential conversations that take place between a doctor and a patient, you and your psychiatrist, a lawyer and his clients, or a confession given to a priest are examples of privileged information.
  • Irrelevant information. Any question that you think is improper or does not have any bearing on the outcome of the case may be irrelevant. If one of these questions is answered, your attorney will likely stop you from answering and object on your behalf. If he does not, you may object to the question yourself.

How Can I Tell Which Questions Are Irrelevant?

If you aren’t sure what the point of a question is, stop and ask yourself if the answer could have a bearing on how a judge would decide your case. For example, you may not wish to answer questions about your living situation, but a judge may need the information to decide which home is best suited for child custody. Just because the answer could be unsettling or be used against you does not mean it is not relevant to the case.

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