What Happens After a Deposition in a Car Accident Case?Auto Accidents
You may undergo a deposition if you pursue a lawsuit after a car accident. This process occurs during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, which is generally the first phase. The deposition can be a critical juncture in your case.
The deposition generally involves your attorney questioning witnesses and perhaps questioning you. You may also face questions from representatives of the insurance company or liable parties in your case.
After a deposition, your car accident attorney may receive the transcript. You may also face specific requests, like undergoing a medical examination. Settlement negotiations may also begin after your deposition.
What Should I Do Before a Deposition?
Hiring an attorney may be your first step after your car accident (and before your deposition). Your lawyer may have a firm understanding of depositions. They can advise you on whether a deposition will occur, what you can expect, and how to prepare.
Your lawyer may also take several steps in preparation for your car accident case, including:
- Get the latest information about your injuries: The connection between your car accident and your injuries is vital. Your lawyer will want to have detailed, up-to-date records of your injuries. They may encourage you to see a doctor before the deposition and may secure all relevant paperwork from your visit.
- Organizing all proof of liability: Your lawyer may have conducted a complete investigation of your accident. They may have secured evidence, like written witness accounts, video footage, a police report, and photographs of the damage. Your attorney will organize all relevant evidence in preparation for the deposition.
- Prepare witnesses: Your lawyer may check in with witnesses who may appear during the deposition. The attorney may ensure that these witnesses’ accounts are consistent and that they prepare them for the deposition process.
- Prepare you: While your attorney will likely take the lead role in your deposition, they’ll also ensure that they prepare you. You may need to face questions from your lawyer and insurance company representatives. Your lawyer will help you prepare for those questions and instruct you on how to respond if you’re unsure of the appropriate response to a question.
Having an attorney may make the deposition and other steps in your car accident case far less stressful.
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Strategies for Preparing for a Car Accident Deposition
Your lawyer will have a clear plan as they prepare for your deposition.
They may employ one or more of the deposition-preparation strategies recommended by the American Bar Association (ABA), including:
- Reviewing recordings of similar depositions so that you understand how an actual deposition looks
- Explaining the exact goals for your deposition so that you may have a clear guide as the deposition occurs
- Engaging in a hypothetical line of questioning that imitates the questions you may receive during the deposition a sort of “mock” deposition
You should feel that your attorney is preparing and preparing you for the deposition. There is no such thing as too much preparation. If you don’t feel prepared, or are uncertain about any aspect of the upcoming deposition, voice your concern to your attorney.
What Happens During a Deposition?
Depositions happen outside of court and therefore have rules that are not entirely consistent with civil courts. Your attorney can explain these rules to you. You should know that, even if you are not in court, you will be under oath when giving any testimony.
A deposition is a fact-gathering process, which is why it falls under the legal umbrella of discovery.
You can expect the following to occur during a deposition:
- You will answer questions from the liable party’s attorney
- You may answer questions from your own attorney (though they may not deem it necessary to ask any questions)
- Witnesses to the accident will give their testimony and answer questions from both sides’ attorneys
- Lawyers from either side will pose any concerns that they have about a witness or account
- Experts with relevant information will give testimony and answer relevant questions
While there may be common ground across different car accident depositions, each is unique. There is no way to predict, with any certainty, how your deposition will unfold. This uncertainty is an important reason to have a lawyer accompany you to your deposition.
What Kinds of Questions and Topics May Arise During a Car Accident Deposition?
Many of the questions posed during your deposition may relate to your accident. Your injuries and other damages may also be a vital focus of the testimony.
Some questions in the deposition may be very straightforward: What’s your name? Where do you live? What vehicle do you drive? Other questions may be more complicated and may carry greater weight for the outcome of your case.
Such questions may include:
- How did the accident happen?
- What were the weather and road conditions at the time of your accident?
- What did you do to avoid the accident?
- What did the other driver do to cause (or avoid) the accident?
- What did you say to the other driver after the accident, if anything?
- Did you seek medical attention after your car accident?
- What injuries did you suffer because of the car accident?
You should be ready for questions that directly challenge your account of events. Challenging questions may include, “Why didn’t you seek medical attention sooner than you did?” or, “If your injuries are serious, how can you still do certain activities?”
Your attorney will have a firm grasp of the facts of your case. Based on these facts, they may anticipate the challenges that an insurance company’s attorneys will pose. Your lawyer should prepare you thoroughly to answer or not answer any challenging questions.
How Much Will I Have to Participate in the Deposition?
Your lawyer should take a lead role in your deposition. Aside from answering questions, you may have little participation in depositions.
Each case and deposition is unique. One cannot accurately generalize about your testimony. Your personal injury lawyer will be better suited to explain your role in your case deposition.
What to Expect After Your Deposition Is Complete
The deposition is a crucial early step in your case. However, it is far from the last.
After the deposition concludes, both sides of a car accident claim should have a better understanding of:
- The strength of their case
- The strength of the opposition’s case
- Whether evidence and witness accounts better support their case or the opponent’s case
- The strength of expert testimony that the other side possesses
- The damages that you’ve suffered, and the weight of evidence supporting those damages
- Other key considerations in a car accident case
Per the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average insurance claim payment for passenger vehicle accidents is about $6,831. An insurance company may not want to pay this (or any other) amount you deserve and may fight against your claim.
After seeing the strength of your case during the deposition, the insurance company can be more or less motivated to settle. Following any necessary medical reviews after your testimony, your lawyer may enter into settlement talks with the insurance company.
Your Case May Settle Following the Deposition
Your attorney may negotiate with the insurance company’s attorneys following the deposition. Your lawyer may have a clear settlement target in mind and should not generally stray far from that settlement figure.
Settlement talks may require:
- Both sides to explain how they arrived at their target settlement figure
- Both sides critique the other side’s calculations and broader arguments
- Both sides to present evidence that supports their case or that refutes the other side’s case
- Bargaining and compromise
Your lawyer must stand firm for you. So long as their calculation or your losses is accurate, there may be no sufficient reason to accept a settlement that is significantly less than that calculation.
What Determines the Value of a Fair Car Accident Settlement?
These factors may determine the value of a fair car accident settlement:
- Who is at fault for the accident: If another party is entirely liable for your accident, then they (or their insurer) may be completely liable for your losses. In some states, car accident victims can recover compensation even if they’re partially responsible for the accident.
- Your state’s insurance rules: In some states, the victim’s own auto insurance will cover losses up to a certain limit. These are known as “no-fault” states. In other states, the liable party’s insurer covers all of the victim’s damages. These differences are essential when identifying who should pay for what after a car accident.
- The nature and severity of your injuries: More severe injuries will produce more costly damages. You may ask for a higher settlement if you have serious injuries. Insurance companies may be more hesitant to pay you fairly when you ask for a significant financial recovery.
- The extent of property damage: If you have total damage to your vehicle, then you may request that liable parties pay for an entirely new car. This may complicate settlement negotiations.
- Other considerations unique to your case: The circumstances of each case are unique. Your attorney will consider all of your unique case circumstances as they calculate the value of your settlement.
- One truth is universal across car accident cases: You should never settle for less compensation than you deserve.
Mediation and Trial May Come After Settlement Negotiations
Mediation or trial may occur if settlement negotiations fail. Mediation occurs when a neutral party sits in on settlement talks, attempting to help each side reach an acceptable agreement.
It may be your attorney’s decision of whether mediation is worthwhile. A mediator cannot impose a legally binding ruling, meaning you aren’t required to accept any settlement that a mediator might propose. So while there is no obvious financial risk in mediation, your lawyer may simply decide that mediation will lead to the same result as settlement negotiations a stalemate between both sides.
Your lawyer may take your case to trial, whether after mediation or instead of mediation.
During a trial in front of a jury, your attorney may:
- Present a comprehensive oral argument detailing your case
- Present evidence
- Present and question witnesses and experts who support your case
- Cross-examine any witnesses or experts that the opposition presents
- Present documentation of your damages
- Present exhibits that reconstruct the circumstances of your accident
- Refute any untrue arguments made by the opposition
There is a bit of uncertainty in trials. Outcomes are never guaranteed, and nobody can know exactly how a car accident trial will unfold. Still, a trial can be necessary in a car accident case and may ultimately result in a significant financial recovery for you.
Should I Hire an Attorney for a Car Accident Case?
This is a question that many car accident victims face. These questions may arise once you realize that your injuries are severe, insurance companies may not be dealing in good faith, or other circumstances may require a significant financial recovery.
Yes, we generally advise that car accident victims hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney:
- Is the safe move: Sure, your accident can prove minor. Your injuries might heal quicker than you think. Maybe the financial damage from your accident isn’t that severe. But what if these things aren’t true? Having an attorney who is ready to depose, negotiate, and go to trial protects you against the possibility of severe losses.
- May protect your health: Dealing with insurance companies can be seriously stressful. Stress can take a tremendous toll on your physical health, not to mention your emotional and psychological wellbeing. Having an attorney lead your car accident case can help you avoid such harmful stress.
- May result in the outcome you seek: With their experience, legal knowledge, and resources like experts on their side, an attorney may emerge victorious for you. While an attorney must never guarantee any case result, you might get the financial recovery you deserve, and a lawyer might be the reason.
Consider what is at stake should you choose not to hire a lawyer. There may be much on the line, from your health to your case outcome.
Call an Attorney Today to Discuss Your Car Accident Case
Consultations with personal injury firms are generally free. You can ask questions and find out more about specific firms. Be thorough when choosing an attorney, but understand that your case may have rigid filing deadlines. Act as soon as possible.