Deposition After a Car Accident
If you are a car accident victim, do not confuse a deposition with an insurance company’s questioning of you during their claims process. A deposition is a common step in the lawsuit process between a victim and the insurer or at-fault party following a motor vehicle accident. While an accident victim has no obligation to talk to the opposing insurance company during an accident claim, the victim may need to submit to a deposition in a lawsuit with the help of a car accident lawyer.
What Is a Deposition, and Do You Need to Attend?
Depositions are information-seeking sessions as part of a case’s discovery process. Any party may be subject to a deposition, including witnesses, the accident victim, the at-fault party, or another interested party to the case. During a deposition, an attorney will ask the deposed party questions about the car accident. The questions can cover various topics, including the events leading to a crash, your injuries, and how the injuries affect your life.
Unlike other case procedural matters that your lawyer typically handles, a deposition can require your attendance when you are the accident victim. If a party does not cooperate with an agreed-upon deposition, the court may issue a subpoena for the party to appear. The deposition is an under-oath statement: you must honestly answer all questions as if you were in court before a judge.
What Is the Purpose of a Deposition?
A deposition is an opportunity for an attorney to learn about the case. The deposition questions will often reference the car accident and the resulting concerns. Notably, the opposing attorney will use any information they learn from you during deposition at trial or in settlement negotiations with your attorney.
Likely Topics of Discussion in Your Deposition:
- Information about who you are, where you work and live
- What led to the accident
- Your injuries
- Any effects from your injuries on your life
- Previous medical conditions or injuries
- Any prior accidents you had
- Criminal history and/or history of civil lawsuits
- Any preparation for the deposition
- Statements you made to other parties relating to the accident (other than protected discussions with your attorney)
Will Your Attorney Assist You During a Deposition?
Often, the party to the deposition will receive ample notice of the upcoming deposition’s date, location, and time. This advance notice gives the accident victim time to consult with their attorney, discuss issues, and prepare accordingly.
While your attorney cannot predict everything that the other side might ask you during a deposition, they can guide you on the most likely discussion topics and questions, advising you on how to protect your rights.
How Can a Deposition Affect Your Car Accident Case?
A deposition can offer much-needed insight into the opposing side. Often, the deposition serves as a chance for a lawyer to get a face-to-face meeting with the car accident victim.
The lawyer will use the deposition to get to know you, your ability to answer the questions, and your knowledge of the events and your injuries.
The opposing attorney will ask you many questions that may seem irrelevant or common knowledge, but remain aware and vigilant because everything they ask can affect your case.
In a deposition, you testify under oath. It is recorded and could become evidence if your case goes to trial. The information you provide through a deposition can become ammunition for the opposing party to devalue the worth of your damages or to pin the blame on you for the accident. A deposition may result in a positive resolution for you sooner than anticipated or could cause your case to go to trial.
Insight Gained From a Deposition
After the deposition, each side will analyze the information provided and any new insights into the case and determine the strongest path forward. Your lawyer will continue to build your case and gather additional available evidence.
The court reporter present for the deposition will provide each side with a copy of the transcript. Depending on the length of the deposition, there may be a considerable number of transcripts to review and analyze.
Future Depositions, if Necessary
In preparation for a court case, several parties may require a deposition. Depositions are not limited to just the drivers involved in the crash but can also include other passengers, witnesses, experts, and medical providers. After your deposition, there may be a schedule for additional depositions already in place. Either party’s attorneys may decide that deposing a particular individual might benefit the case following your deposition.
If other depositions must take place, each side will likely await the conclusion of those depositions before making decisions about how to move forward.
After a Deposition, Negotiations May Continue
In the immediate days and weeks following the conclusion of depositions, each party’s attorney will continue their communications to resolve the case. It is not uncommon for depositions to encourage both sides to settle. Whether through mediation or negotiations, the opposing attorney may offer a settlement. If you receive an offer, you must then meet with your lawyer to discuss and decide whether it is in your interest to accept.
If you accept a settlement offer at this stage, your case will then resolve, and no further legal action will likely be necessary. Most car accident cases settle before a trial concludes.
If Negotiations Fail, Your Case Can Go to Trial
Not all cases will settle after depositions. If the opposing party does not make a settlement offer, or their offer is too low, you may need to go to trial to seek adequate compensation for your losses. Your attorney will prepare your case for trial and likely push for a trial as soon as possible.
Even if your case continues through the trial process, it is still possible to settle. A settlement can occur any time before the court enters a verdict. If the opportunity or grounds for settlement arise during trial, your attorney will present you with any offers from the defendants. If none of the offers are acceptable or there are no additional offers, the case will continue through trial, and the court will render a final decision and award damages.
Helpful Tips to Prepare for a Deposition
The anticipation of a deposition following a car accident is stressful. As a motor vehicle accident victim, reliving the trauma of the accident and your injuries can be overwhelming and emotional. Having some insight into the inner workings of the deposition process and what you can expect can help you better prepare for your well-being and the benefit of your case. The following guidance can assist you in the weeks and days leading up to your deposition.
Consult Your Attorney Before the Deposition
Do not overlook the importance of meeting with your attorney in preparation for a deposition. Getting a feel for what a deposition will be like can help you alleviate your anticipation and nervousness. Your lawyer may go over opposing counsel’s likely questions to help you practice answering them and better understand what to expect.
Go Over Any Evidence Available Beforehand
During a deposition, the opposing attorney can ask you various questions about the accident and your injuries. They may show you documentation or read from other sources of evidence in your case. It is worth taking the time to go over the evidence about the accident, such as medical records for your injuries, police reports, or any other written statements, to prepare for the deposition and make sure you understand what these documents say or show.
Be Truthful and Firm
A deposition is under oath, and you must always answer truthfully. The opposing counsel may try to reword your answers, ask you questions differently, or directly dispute your answers with you. Answer the question asked to the best of your ability and remain firm in your responses.
Be Concise, Consistent, and Stick to the Question Asked
When answering a question in a deposition, the first thing you must do is understand the question. If you find any of the questions confusing or unclear, ask for clarification. Do not answer something you are unsure of or set off on a tangent unrelated to the question. Try to keep your answers to yes and no and limit any wordy and lengthy explanations. The opposing attorneys want you to speak as much as possible: the more you say, the higher the chances they discover something they can maneuver against you. Opposing counsel will ask open-ended questions or encourage explanations on your part; you must stay conscious of your answer and what the attorney specifically asks you for each question.
Do Not Be Afraid to Say, “I Don’t Know”
Generally avoiding questions or repeatedly stating that you do not know the answers may negatively affect your case. Yet, when you truly do not know what the attorney is asking, it is always better to state this than to offer speculation or misstate a fact that could cause irreparable damage to your case.
Remember That Everything You Say Is on the Record
There will be a recording and transcription of the entire deposition. Everything said throughout the deposition is on the record, and the attorneys can go back to review it at any time during your case. Many questions an attorney will ask you in a deposition are the same or similar questions they will ask you during a trial if you are on the stand. The lawyers can reference the deposition as evidence of inconsistencies in your testimony during the trial.
Try to Remain Professional and Composed
A deposition can be a highly emotional process. There are moments when you may feel overwhelmed and have difficulty focusing on the questioning due to the trauma of the accident and the way the attorney asks you a question. Remain as composed as possible when answering your questions and always remain respectful. During the deposition, an opposing attorney may try to take advantage of your emotional or mental state to manipulate your answers or confuse you.
If you or someone you love are victims of a motor vehicle accident you believe is due to negligence, contact us to set up a free case consultation and learn more about the claims and deposition process.