If a case isn’t settled, then typically the next step will be to file a lawsuit seeking damages. Cases typically don’t settle for many reasons but mainly it could be due to a low settlement offer or the insurance company denying the claim.
Once the lawsuit is filed, the parties begin what is called “discovery.” Discovery refers to the fact gathering or investigation of a claim. This differs from the initial pre-lawsuit investigation process because it is much more in depth.
Depositions are part of the process referred to as “oral discovery.” You can find more information about discoveryin the article Litigation Timeline Part II: Discovery.
Depositions of plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses are a critical part of any car accident lawsuit. This is how parties obtain information from each other to fully evaluate the claim and prepare for a possible trial.
What is a deposition?
A deposition is testimony that is given outside of court and under oath. The person being deposed (or who gives the testimony) is called the “deponent.”
Who attends a deposition?
Typically, it will be the person being deposed, attorneys for both sides, and a court reporter. The deposition will likely take place at an office building. Before the deposition begins, the court reporter will administer an oath before the deposition and then record what is said to prepare a written transcript of the deposition.
The cost of the court reporter is usually covered by the party requesting the transcript. The cost of the transcript itself falls to the individual party requesting it. These are separate costs of the lawsuit from attorney’ fees. The judge and court personnel are usually not involved with depositions unless there is some type of dispute between the parties.
Will I be deposed if I file a lawsuit?
Every car accident claim is unique for many different reasons. While most claims will settle before filing a lawsuit, there are many that won’t. This could be due to the insurance company arguing who is at fault, how much fault each party bears, or maybe they’re claiming that the damages exceed the injuries that are claimed. If there is an important issue that can’t be resolved, then a lawsuit is likely to be filed. If a lawsuit is filed and a settlement can’t be reached, the chances of you being deposed are probably pretty high.
The scheduling of a deposition can be difficult because the parties must work together with the deponent to find a time that works for everyone. As long as your requests are reasonable, they will work with your schedule. If you’re represented by a car accident lawyer, they will prepare you in advance. This is important because the other side’s attorney will likely ask questions to raise doubt about your claim.
What will they ask me during a deposition?
The defendant’s attorney will start by giving “admonitions.” These are basically ground rules for the deposition and making sure you are fully informed of the process. You will be asked your name, address, employment history, possibly about family, and if you’ve taken any medication that day (so to confirm your mind is clear and providing the best possible answers).
The attorney will also cover your recollection of the car accident. It’s possible the questions will make it seem like you contributed in some way like being in a rush or distracted. This is one way for them to help create doubt with a jury.
They will also likely have reviewed your medical records and ask you questions about your injuries. If you’re claiming lost wages or an inability to work, they’ll want to know about your employment, job duties, income, and explanation as to why you couldn’t work. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate how you calculated the numbers you claim to have lost.
It’s very important to listen to the whole question and to answer honestly. If you’re not sure about the answer, it’s ok to say that. Another important aspect is to answer “yes or no” questions with only a “yes” or “no.” In general, people don’t like silence or dead air in a conversation because it can be uncomfortable. Lawyers will use this to their advantage by asking a question and letting the deponent talk to provide additional information. While you think it may be helping your case, many times offering more information will only hurt it.
Depositions can feel very intrusive. Private information that you don’t typically share with others is out in the open because it could be relevant to your case. If the lawyer asking questions goes too far, your car accident attorney can object to the line of questioning. It’s important to try answer clearly and calmly and to not get upset. The defense attorney is assessing what type of witness you’ll be at trial and how the jury may perceive you. If you show that you are calm and answer honestly, they will be more inclined to settle before trial.
Who is deposed in a car accident case?
If the case doesn’t settle and looks like it may go to trial, then there will probably be several more depositions. You, the at-fault party, witnesses, police officers, and expert witnesses will all likely be deposed.
Expert witnesses are necessary to help prove your case at trial. Doctors specializing in the area of your injuries, economists who support your claim for lost wages, accident reconstructionists who recreate the scene of the accident, and others are all possible expert witnesses that could be deposed.
Depending on the severity of the injuries or complexity of the accident, there could be more than one doctor or economist based on their specialty. For example, if you have a traumatic brain injury and a shoulder injury, there will be two different doctors for each of those injuries. Like a court reporter, expert witnesses are costs of a case separate from attorney’s fees.
Even if you’ve been in one before, depositions are nerve-racking. The best thing to do is be prepared as possible with your car accident lawyer and to give honest, clear, and calm responses.
My name is Daniel Hanecak and I am a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer. I know from personal experience how stressful and time consuming a car accident can be. When you call Hanecak Law Inc., you will speak with me directly. It is my aim to provide you with free and friendly advice. Call me today at 858-206-4DAN for a free case evaluation.