Jason Stephens | April 19, 2021 | Car Accidents
If you are the victim of a collision that resulted in injuries, you may decide to seek financial compensation. During the process of a personal injury claim, your attorney may mention depositions. In some cases, the opposing side may decide to depose you.
This legal term causes lots of unnecessary anxiety for many claimants. In reality, depositions should not worry you. They are a normal part of the personal injury claims process.
A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you understand the deposition process. In this article, we will provide information about depositions in the context of car accident cases. We will outline the deposition process and discuss what happens after a deposition.
What is a Deposition?
Depositions in a personal injury case happen during the “discovery phase” of the case. This is the portion of the case in which each side is allowed to review the evidence of the other side. Discovery allows both the claimant and the defendant to thoroughly prepare their cases and collect relevant evidence.
Car accident claims often involve multiple discovery methods. Depositions are only one type of discovery method.
- Requests for admissions
- Requests for production
Depositions are sworn testimonies that take place outside of the courtroom. Typically, one party schedules a deposition with the other party or another witness to gain certain kinds of information.
The witness’s lawyer is not permitted to coach them on how to respond while they are testifying. Depositions can either be voluntary or mandatory. If the witness is unwilling to be deposed, the opposing side may ask a court to compel a witness to give testimony in a deposition. When this happens, the court may issue a subpoena.
In car accident claims, there are two primary types of depositions: oral depositions and written depositions.
Usually, several parties are present for an oral deposition.
These parties include:
- The witness (known as the “deponent”)
- The attorneys for each involved party
- An official who can administer oaths
Sometimes, a stenographer will record the proceedings. However, an audio recording of the deposition could take the place of a stenographer.
In some states, depositions can be held remotely. For instance, a witness might be deposed by phone, teleconference, or by other means of electronic communication. Remote depositions must be scheduled in the same way as in-person depositions.
It is up to the side that arranges the deposition to ensure that all parties have the necessary access to participate.
Witness testimony can also be submitted through written depositions. With this type of discovery, the deposing party provides a list of questions that the deponent answers in writing. The deponent only responds to the specific questions that are provided.
Some experts consider written depositions to be less useful in a car accident case. No one is able to ask clarifying questions after the deponent’s written answers. Follow-up questions can be very helpful for gaining relevant information about the case.
Admissibility of Depositions
In most cases, depositions are inadmissible in court. This is because most depositions are classified as hearsay. But under certain circumstances, these testimonies can be included in trial evidence.
A deposition may be admitted in court if the deponent:
- Cannot testify in the courtroom
- Testifies to something that is against their interest
- Provides a different answer in court than in the deposition
If any of these situations arise, the court may decide to admit part of the deposition into evidence.
What Happens After a Deposition in a Car Accident Case?
Following a deposition in a car accident case, there are several possibilities for what comes next.
After the deposition, both sides have an opportunity to go over the accompanying transcript or audio recording. Both sides will examine the transcript for errors. They will use the information provided in the deposition to determine their next steps in the case.
The information provided in the deposition may cause your attorney to call for additional testimony. Depositions can also give rise to the need for more evidence or new information.
Medical Examination Requests
Following a deposition in a car accident case, the defendant’s lawyer may request that the claimant undergo a medical examination. These examinations are supposed to represent an independent medical opinion. But this is not always the reality.
Oftentimes, the medical professional is chosen by the insurance company that is being accused. When this happens, the medical examiner is more likely to downplay your injuries. This helps the insurance provider to minimize your payment.
An accomplished car accident lawyer knows the tricks that insurance companies use. They will help you to prepare for the medical examination, should you undergo one.
In some cases, a deposition may result in a settlement offer from the at-fault party. Your personal injury attorney will assess the offer and determine if it is appropriate in your case. The goal of insurance providers is to pay as little as possible in every situation. It is your attorney’s job to recover the full amount that you are rightfully owed.
Securing the services of an accomplished car accident attorney will ensure that you do not accept lowball settlement offers. The value of your case will depend on costs you incurred, including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- And more
If you suffered catastrophic injuries, low settlement offers should not suffice. A legal professional can give you advice about the value of your traffic accident claim. You should never accept a settlement offer that is lower than it should be.
Preparing for Trial
Sometimes, depositions are not followed by settlement offers. If no offer is made or if settlement negotiations break down, a trial may be necessary. If you need to go to court, your car accident lawyer will begin preparing your case.
When your attorney prepares to go to trial, they will:
- Prepare opening statements
- Decide which witnesses they will call
- Determine how to frame the evidence
- Schedule expert witness testimony, if necessary
- Prepare closing arguments
Even if your attorney is preparing your case for trial, the at-fault party can still make a settlement offer. This is true until the moment that a judge or jury renders a decision. In fact, settlement offers that happen later in the process are more likely to reflect the accident’s actual costs.
If you have been injured in a car accident because of another person’s negligence, a qualified legal professional can help you secure the compensation you deserve.