When someone is hurt in a car accident, they typically have the right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for damages. Unfortunately, insurers often offer a much lower settlement (or deny the claim altogether). If this happens, you may need to file a lawsuit.
The deposition is what happens during the discovery phase of a car accident case, and it is a crucial part of any car accident case. You should not undergo a deposition without an attorney present. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss what your next steps should be.
What Is a Deposition in a Car Accident Case?
There are four main stages in a car accident lawsuit:
A deposition is a hearing that happens during the “discovery” stage. During the deposition, which happens outside of court, a party to the witness or case gives their testimony under oath.
If you are the plaintiff (person bringing the lawsuit), your lawyer will ask questions to the person being deposed. The deposition gives both sides the opportunity to hear what is said. Lawyers for each party can hear all accounts of what happened, assess how strong the testimony is, and determine how a jury or judge might feel about the witness. This is important information for both sides to take into the lawsuit.
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Do You Need a Lawyer to Be Present During Your Deposition?
It is a good idea to have an attorney by your side during your deposition. If you try to go it alone, you may not know whether the question the other side is asking you is overstepping their boundaries. Your attorney can direct you not to answer questions that could somehow work against you and your case.
What Happens After the Deposition in a Car Accident Lawsuit?
After the deposition, several things occur that are crucial to the lawsuit. You can expect the following steps after a deposition.
A Court Reporter Prepares a Transcript
By law and as part of the federal court reporting program, any court session or proceeding must be recorded verbatim by a court reporter. A court reporter will typically record all testimonies given during the deposition in shorthand. They might also use a recorder, hand-held microphone, or typewriter-like device known as a stenotype.
After the deposition is over, the reporter will prepare a legible transcript. It might take a few weeks. This transcript is important for both sides in the remainder of the case.
The Transcript Is Reviewed by Both Parties
After the transcript is created, both sides will get a copy. Each lawyer will carefully review the transcripts. Your lawyer will go over the details with you and look for any errors or inconsistent information. This is your chance to speak up and tell your attorney if you notice any misinformation or mistakes in what was said.
Sometimes, an attorney may determine from the information that another witness needs to be heard—which would call for scheduling of another deposition hearing.
Your Lawyer Makes an Evaluation
When your lawyer has finished going over your deposition, they will let you know how they believe the deposition can affect your case. That includes the good and the bad, so be prepared for honesty. If there are any missing pieces in your deposition, your lawyer may call for more witnesses to depose.
Medical Examinations Might Be Requested
Once your deposition is over, the other side may ask you to get an “independent medical examination.” This is especially common when bringing a lawsuit for car accident damages. Your lawyer will prepare you for the examination if it is requested.
The Insurance Company May Try to Control Which Doctor You See
The insurance company will typically choose the doctor you see for the medical exam. They might make it seem like it will be unbiased, but that’s rarely the case. The doctor may try to minimize how bad your injuries are or look for other explanations for them besides the accident.
Your lawyer knows about this tactic, so they will:
- Prep you to not give the doctor excess information
- Have your own doctor write a report on your injuries and how they have affected you
- Collect all reports that can be used to negotiate a settlement
The Trial Happens (or a Settlement Is Agreed Upon)
After the deposition and any medical examinations are completed, your personal injury lawyer will keep negotiating with the insurance company. The goal is to reach an agreement on a fair settlement amount—without the need to go to trial.
The negotiation period can be lengthy. There is a lot of investigation involved, and your lawyer will call on all available resources to prove your side. If the insurance company sends a settlement offer, your lawyer will discuss whether it is actually fair to you.
An attorney can provide their professional opinion on what you should do, but the decision to settle or not is ultimately up to you:
- If you agree to a settlement offer, you will receive a settlement check and the case will end. No future cases pertaining to this accident may be opened.
- If the insurance company does not offer a settlement you believe is fair, your lawyer will discuss proceeding to trial.
What Happens if You Go to Trial After a Car Accident Deposition?
Going to trial is a big decision, so you and your lawyer will need to talk through the pros and cons. They will also give their opinion on your chances of winning. If you do end up going to trial, your lawyer will start preparing for it right away.
During the actual trial, you and the party you are suing will both give testimony. There will likely also be a witness and expert testimony to support your claim. The deposition may also be used during the trial to question or contradict witness statements.
When both sides have presented their case, a jury will hear all the information and give its verdict. If you and your lawyer win at trial, you will be awarded a set amount of money for your damages.
For a free legal consultation, call 404-400-4000
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Car Accident Case for Free
If you were in a car accident and have to give a deposition, you will need an experienced car accident lawyer. Every step of the legal process may help or hurt your case. Don’t try to go it alone. For over 20 years, we’ve been helping car accident victims win the recovery they need to compensate for their costs—and move on.
If you need help with or have questions about your case, call us today. We’ll go over the details and discuss the best plan of action for your situation. Call (404) 400-4000 to schedule your free consultation now.