When a lawsuit has been filed in a Georgia car accident case, there are several stages. The second stage, after the lawsuit has been filed, is known as “discovery.” During the discovery, both sides of the case are able to analyze the other’s position while gathering evidence for trial. A big part of the discovery phase is the deposition.
During a car accident case deposition, each side is able to ask questions of other people who may have information important to the case. If you are the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit), you must be very careful during your deposition. How you and your lawyer approach this step can, in some situations, make or break your case.
Compensation Is Often Necessary for Recovery
Injuries from a car accident are often quite serious and can have lifelong repercussions. Most people do not have the money necessary to cover the costs of a serious injury. Recovering fair compensation through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit is often the only way to recover the money you need to get your life back on track.
All the steps of a car accident lawsuit must be respected, in order to give yourself the best chance at recovering the money you need. Depositions play a crucial role in the pre-trial process. They can mean the difference between winning fair compensation for your injuries and being hampered by lifelong debt.
Here’s what you need to know before your Georgia car accident case deposition begins.
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1. The Deposition Can Involve a Variety of People
Anyone who may hold pertinent information for the case can be called for the deposition. That may include:
- Drivers of the cars in the accident
- Passengers in the vehicles involved in the accident
- People who saw the accident happen (witnesses)
- Investigating police officers
- Doctors who treated those involved in the accident
As long as the person being deposed has information relevant to the car accident case, there is not much of a limit on who can be called. The defendant’s attorney will need to give each person “reasonable notice in writing,” including the date, time, and place for the deposition (according to Georgia Code § 9-11-30).
2. You Should Be Very Careful About What You Say
As the plaintiff bringing the lawsuit, you will need to be present for at least one deposition during the case. This means the side of the defendant (the other driver or their car insurance company) can ask you questions about what happened. In most cases, you will be dealing with the defendant’s lawyer.
Depositions with the plaintiff often take hours to complete, so be prepared for many questions and be ready to provide as little detail as possible. The attorney’s goal is to get as much information as possible to help their side.
Don’t give more information about the accident than you are asked, and be careful about what you say. Of course, don’t lie, withhold factual answers, or refuse to answer questions (unless your lawyer has advised you to do so), but don’t offer up more than you are directly asked about. Your car accident lawyer will prep you for this beforehand.
3. It’s Okay If You Don’t Know or Remember Something
You might feel tempted to guess at an answer or “fill in the blanks” to be helpful, but resist that urge. It’s okay to say if you don’t remember or know certain facts. Giving an answer to a question you aren’t sure about can actually hurt your side.
4. You’ll Need to Come Prepared
If you have a car accident lawyer (which is highly recommended at this stage), they will help you get ready for your deposition. This preparation will include:
- Reviewing important documents like the police report from the accident, lost wages, and medical records
- Going over answers and documents that you’ve already provided
- Making sure your testimony will line up with what information the other side already has
- Your lawyer, going over questions with you about your background, the accident, and your injuries
5. Only a Few People Will Be at the Deposition
Those present at a deposition typically only include:
- The party or their attorney who has requested the deposition
- All other attorneys representing those involved in the lawsuit
- The court reporter
- The witness who is called to testify (including their lawyer, if they have one)
6. The Other Side’s Attorney Will Be Watching Your Movements
The defendant’s lawyer will be watching for more than verbal answers. They will be paying attention to how you act, your attitude, and how believable and likable you come across. They know that likable plaintiffs tend to get higher awards from the jury in court.
While you can’t completely control how you seem to others, this will be something to go over with your attorney. The other side will be looking for both verbal and nonverbal factors to determine how strong or weak your case is.
7. The Defendant Will Look for Inconsistencies in Your Story
The other side’s lawyer will be looking for ways to make you seem unreliable. For example, if you say during the deposition that you were driving at 55 miles per hour when you had previously said 45 miles per hour, the attorney can use that to point out your memory can’t be fully trusted.
Because of this, it’s very important to have your facts straight. Your attorney will help make sure you are clear on all the details of the accident, your injuries, and the actions of the other driver.
8. Some Questions Might Seem “Out of Nowhere”
The defendant’s lawyer may ask you questions that seem unrelated or irrelevant to the current case. These questions can seem strange, especially since the first questions they ask will be basic inquiries about yourself and the accident.
Seemingly random questions usually come with clear intentions. Don’t let these throw you off. You might still need to answer questions like this, so be prepared. If any questions are inappropriate to the case, your lawyer will object to them.
9. Your Lawyer Will Have a Chance to Ask Questions Too
Remember, keep your answers to the point and just long enough to provide a sufficient response. Know that your own lawyer will be able to ask you questions later, and they can cover anything you feel was left out.
10. Speaking Clearly Is Important
Keep in mind that the court reporter will be recording everything said in the deposition. When answering questions, avoid nonverbal responses like nodding or shaking your head. Speak clearly with each answer.
11. You Can Request a Copy of Your Testimony
After your testimony has been typed up following the deposition, each side will be able to access it and use it at the trial. You and your car accident lawyer can request a typed copy of the transcript by contacting the court reporter.
If you have corrections, you will have a certain amount of time – typically 30 days – to review, sign, and return it with the revisions.
You Should Always Get Your Lawsuit Started Quickly
An important thing to keep in mind when filing a lawsuit after a car accident is that memories fade. Depositions often play a crucial role in a car accident case, and delays can result in less reliable testimony from your witnesses. It is critical that all witness statements be recorded as soon as possible after a crash while the incident is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Getting started early can benefit your case in other ways as well. When your lawyer gets a chance to begin their investigation into your accident shortly after it occurs, they are more likely to uncover valuable evidence.
Additionally, there is a statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit in Georgia. The amount of time you have to file can vary depending on the specifics of your case. By hiring an attorney early, they can ensure that all deadlines are met and protect your right to recover compensation for your injuries.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free
If you were the victim of a car accident in Georgia, John Foy & Associates can help you through every step of your case, including the deposition. We have been helping car accident victims win the money they deserve for over 20 years. To schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can assist you, give us a call or contact us online today.