If the insurance company isn’t willing to settle the car accident claim, the next step is to file a lawsuit. After the defendant driver is served, the insurance company’s law firm will file an Answer.
Generally, the defense lawyers will send your attorney Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions. Once the plaintiff responds to the Discovery requests, most defense attorneys want to get the plaintiff’s deposition lined up as quickly as possible.
Understanding Car Accident Depositions
A deposition is a crucial part of the discovery process in a personal injury claim resulting from a car accident. Discovery is when lawyers from both sides gather information and evidence, including asking questions of the involved parties and witnesses. A deposition allows the attorneys to clarify the circumstances of the car accident and gather testimonies to prepare for the case. This is the insurance attorney’s chance to interview the plaintiff.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition is a formal question-and-answer session where a witness provides their sworn testimony under oath in the presence of a court reporter and attorneys from both sides. It takes place during the discovery phase of a car accident lawsuit and usually occurs out of court. The main objectives of a deposition are to:
- Get each party’s account of events
- Evaluate the strength of the testimonies
- Decide if the witness may influence a judge or jury
The information gathered during a deposition is crucial for the defendant and the plaintiff’s lawyers. In car accident lawsuits, depositions typically cover the witness’s background, the details of the collision, and the severity of the injuries sustained.
Preparing for a Deposition
Your car accident attorney will help you prepare for your deposition, explaining what to expect and how to answer questions appropriately. They may conduct a mock deposition to help you practice your responses and become familiar with the process. At the very least, you should review your discovery responses.
On the day of the deposition, wearing clean, professional clothing is a good idea. In addition to asking you questions, the defense attorney also evaluates how well the plaintiff presents as a witness.
The Deposition Process
During the deposition, lawyers from both sides will ask questions about your background, the car accident, and the injuries you sustained. You should ALWAYS answer all questions truthfully and straightforwardly. If you are unsure about an answer, do not hesitate to say so – never guess or estimate without pointing out that you are doing so. “I don’t know” is the correct and truthful answer to questions you don’t know.
What Happens After a Deposition?
1. Preparation and Review of the Transcript
Following the deposition, the court reporter will transcribe the recorded testimony. The defendant’s and plaintiff’s lawyers will receive a copy of the transcript. Your attorney will review the transcript for accuracy and gather any relevant information to strengthen your case further. The deponent (the witness giving the testimony) will have a chance to review the transcript and make any changes on an “errata sheet” at the end of the transcript. At the conclusion of the deposition (or “depo”), your attorney likely said you “will read and sign.” This means the witness will get a copy of the statement and have 30 days to make corrections. If the witness “waived,” then he or she won’t be reading through the depo later to make any changes.
2. Additional Depositions and Gathering of Evidence
Sometimes, your lawyer may decide to depose additional witnesses to gather more information or clarify certain aspects of the case.
3. “Independent” Medical Examinations
The defendant’s attorney may request an “independent” medical examination (IME) to assess the severity of your injuries. This is usually a doctor who no longer practices medicine and is now a full-time insurance testifying witness. It’s highly lucrative, and they have excellent working hours. Don’t be surprised if the IME report misses important medical information. That’s not why the insurance company hires them. It’s to discount your medical treatment and injuries.
4. Settlement Negotiations
Settlement negotiations are ongoing throughout a case. Once all depositions and medical examinations are completed, the insurance company has all the information it needs to reevaluate its valuation of your claim. This is a common time for a case to get settled and is typically when mediation will occur. If a fair settlement is reached, your case can be resolved without going to trial.
Your case is headed to trial if a settlement cannot be reached. During the trial, you and the defendant will usually testify, and your attorney will call upon medical experts and witnesses of the car accident. The deposition can verify or refute statements made during the trial.
Factors Affecting Settlement Amounts and Timelines
Insurance research states that the average car accident settlement ranges between $14,000 and $28,000. However, if your accident resulted in permanent disabilities or required extensive treatment, your settlement should be higher. The timeline for settling a car accident case varies depending on factors such as the case’s complexity and the insurance company’s willingness to negotiate.
FAQs About Depositions in Car Accident Cases
What should I wear to my deposition?
Professional attire is recommended. The first priority is to wear something comfortable, but plan to dress in clean, pressed clothing that is appropriate for a business setting. This helps to make a positive impression on all parties present.
How long will my deposition take?
Depositions can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of questions asked. Your attorney can give you a better estimate based on the specifics of your case.
What if I don’t remember all the details of the accident?
It’s acceptable to say “I don’t know” if you cannot recall specific details. Do not guess or speculate; simply state that you do not remember. Accuracy is key in your testimony.
Can I bring a witness to my deposition?
Typically, only the parties involved and their attorneys are present during a deposition. However, in some cases, the court may allow a witness to be present if their testimony is relevant to the case. If you are planning on having someone else attend, you need to let your attorney know ahead of time.
Will the deposition affect the outcome of my case?
The information gathered during a deposition can significantly impact the direction and outcome of your case. It provides both sides with a clearer understanding of the facts, which can influence settlement negotiations or trial strategies.
Can I refuse to answer a question during my deposition?
You are required to answer all questions truthfully unless the question calls for privileged information or is deemed inappropriate. Your attorney can and will object to certain questions if necessary.
What happens if I make a mistake in my deposition?
If you realize you’ve made a mistake in your deposition, inform your attorney as soon as possible. Corrections can typically be made on the transcript before it is finalized.
Is it possible to settle my case after my deposition?
Yes, many cases settle after depositions once both sides better understand the evidence and testimonies. Settlement can occur at any stage before the trial concludes.
How can I best prepare for my deposition?
Review all relevant documents, including the accident report and your medical records. Spend time reviewing potential questions with your attorney to build confidence and ensure you understand how to convey your testimony effectively. The biggest focus is on telling the truth during your deposition.
What is the role of the court reporter during my deposition?
The court reporter records all spoken words during the deposition to create an official transcript. This transcript can be used by both sides for trial preparation and may be referenced in court.