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What Happens After a Deposition in a Car Accident Case?

car accident lawyer in san diegoIf you have sustained injuries in a car accident resulting from someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, you likely will hear your car accident attorney talk about a deposition, or even talk about the other side deposing you. This legal term is the source of a lot of unneeded anxiety for many car accident plaintiffs, but depositions are a normal part of the legal process and nothing to worry about.

An experienced attorney can help explain the deposition process and calm any nerves that you may have regarding it. Read on for more information about what a deposition is, what happens after the deposition, and how depositions can impact the outcome of your car accident case. We have compiled the following information for individuals interested in learning more about the deposition process.

What Is a Deposition?

A deposition is part of the discovery phase of the case. Discovery is the part of a legal process in which both the claimant, also known as the plaintiff, and the defendant have the opportunity to look at the other side’s evidence. The reason for discovery is so that each side can learn about the other side’s existing evidence in time to obtain responding evidence. A car accident case may involve several methods of discovery, of which the deposition is one. Others include interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions.

A deposition is sworn testimony from a witness that takes place outside of court. One of the parties generally arranges the testimony to gather information. All parties can question the witness, but the witness’s attorney cannot coach them during the testimony on how to answer. The witness can agree to voluntarily testify or the party can ask the court to compel the witness to testify by subpoena. There are two types of depositions commonly available in car accident cases: (1) oral depositions and (2) written depositions.

Oral Depositions

Traditionally, oral depositions take place with the deposed witness, known as the deponent, the attorneys for all interested parties, and a person qualified to administer oaths all present. While a stenographer may transcribe the deposition, depositions may use an electronic recorder.

In California, parties can depose witnesses via telephone, video conference, or other electronic means, provided interested parties and the deponent receive notice of the deposition or the subpoena. The party arranging the deposition must ensure that all parties involved have equal access to participate.

Written Depositions

Written depositions are another method to produce witness testimony. With this method, the party submits a set of written questions to the deponent. The deponent supplies written responses to only the questions asked. This method is often considered less useful when obtaining witness testimony, as asking follow-up questions based on the responses received is difficult. Additionally, parties often use another discovery method—interrogatories—to obtain written responses to questions they have for the other party.

Admissibility of Depositions in Court

Generally, depositions are considered hearsay and are inadmissible in court; however, under very limited circumstances, individuals may introduce the testimony at trial, including the following circumstances:

  • The witness can’t testify in court.
  • The witness admits something in the deposition that is against his or her interest.
  • The witness offers a different answer in court than he or she did in the sworn deposition.

What Happens After a Deposition in a Car Accident Case?

After the deposition, several things may happen:

Review of the Transcripts or Recording

Both parties will have the opportunity to review the transcripts or the electronic recording of the deposition to look for errors in the testimony transcription, and determine how to proceed with the case. Your attorney will often offer an evaluation of the deposition and how it contributed to your case. Often, the answers in the deposition will lead to the need for further depositions or for the party’s attorney to continue investigating the case or gathering more evidence.

Request for a Medical Examination

After a claimant in a car accident case has been deposed, it is common for the at-fault party’s legal team to request that the claimant undergo an independent medical examination. The examination is not exactly independent, however, as the same insurance company often hires the same doctors to perform the examination over and over again. These doctors often have a reputation in the legal community for minimizing the severity of the claimant’s injuries. They may even lack the specialization to evaluate your injury.

Rest assured, your experienced car accident attorney is well aware of the common defense tactic of requesting an independent medical examination and will ensure that you know the doctor who will examine you, what the examination will entail, and how to prepare for it.

Settlement

Many times, the deposition in a car accident case will lead to a settlement offer, if the at-fault party’s insurance provider and/or legal counsel determines that a settlement is in the party’s best interests. Your attorney will value your case based on the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred and the quality of life impacts that you experienced from the accident. This case value will serve as a guideline as to how much compensation you are entitled to receive. The settlement offer you receive will not necessarily equal this amount, however. Your attorney can provide you with guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer, but the final decision to accept the offer is yours to make.

Trial Preparations

If no settlement comes or you did not accept one, your attorney will prepare to present your case in court. Preparing for trial includes determining which witnesses to call, how to present the evidence, arranging for the testimony of expert witnesses if necessary, and preparing opening and closing statements.

The insurance company may offer a settlement at any time during the legal process, including right before trial is set to begin or even after the trial has begun, but before a judgment is rendered. It is not unusual for these later settlements to more closely reflect the amount of the case’s value, as the at-fault party’s insurance provider realizes that litigation is imminent and that it is at risk of being on the hook for a judgment for the full value of the case, as well as the exorbitant costs of litigation itself.

What Can I Expect in My Deposition?

Providing testimony, rather voluntarily or compelled by a court, is an anxiety-producing event for many individuals. What if you answer the questions wrong? What if you don’t understand the question? What if your testimony doesn’t match the statements you gave about the car accident? While these are legitimate concerns, you can expect your attorney to prepare you for the deposition and to explain the type of questions you will likely hear.

Some of the information you must provide in the deposition includes:

  • General personal information, such as your name, address, and occupation.
  • Your health status before the accident. The defense will want to know about any pre-existing conditions you have had. Insurers will use this tactic to avoid paying out claims for injuries that were caused by their insured. They will claim that the physical pain you are enduring is not a result of the injury you sustained in the accident, but a pre-existing condition. Discuss pre-existing conditions with your attorney before the deposition. While should not doom your case, your attorney must prepare to counter insurance company arguments.
  • Information about the accident. The defense will want to know as much about your accident, in your own words, as possible. Your attorney will prepare you for this portion of your testimony, as the details you recall must match those you provided in the initial report of the accident. Answer the questions as clearly and honestly as possible and that, if you don’t remember a specific detail, state that you do not recall.
  • A detailed description of your injury, the prescribed treatment for your injury, and whether you complied with the doctor’s discharge orders.
  • A description of your life after the accident. This is the time in which you can describe the quality of life impacts to your injury that you included in your damage claim.

How You Should Behave During a Deposition

While the deposition will take place outside of court, the procedure is sworn testimony and requires professional attire and behavior.

Here are some tips for the type of behavior that a deposition after your accident case warrants:

  • Avoid making small talk, cracking jokes, or straying from the conversation at hand. Time is limited and you can expect the parties to get into the business of your testimony quickly.
  • Answer the question that was asked of you and only that question. There is no need to provide more information than what is requested.
  • Take your time to ensure that you have provided the most thorough, well-thought-out answer possible.
  • Be honest. You will be under oath during the deposition. Lying under oath could result in the court dismissing your case.
  • Prepare yourself well enough that you give calm, thoughtful answers that show confidence in your testimony.

Do You Need an Attorney in a Deposition?

Yes. Having an attorney prepare you for your deposition and depose other witnesses helps you to ensure that the process works in your favor. While knowing that you have to provide testimony under oath is never a calming realization, if your attorney puts in the work to prepare you for the experience, it will likely turn out much better. In addition, having your attorney at the deposition is helpful because your attorney can state objections to the opposing counsel’s questions.  It is merely one necessary step in the journey of obtaining the compensation you need to cover the costs of your injuries.

Depositions are just one of many parts of a car accident case, and preparing you for your deposition is just one of the many services that an experienced car accident attorney can provide.

Some of the other services your attorney may offer include:

  • Guidance as to your legal options and information about the law firm’s success rate in resolving cases like yours through a free, no-obligation review of your case.
  • Determination of all of the sources of liability in your case and the insurance resources that can be accessed to compensate you.
  • A valuation of your case that is based on the expenses and impacts to your quality of life that you have incurred as a result of your accident.
  • Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
  • The collection and organization of evidence and testimony that can help prove liability and the financial and psychological impacts of your injury.
  • Guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting an offered settlement.
  • Litigation, including the delivery of opening and closing statements, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.
  • Assistance collecting your settlement or award.
Attorney John Gomez

Car Accident Attorney, John Gomez

If you have a car accident claim, contact an experienced attorney who has experience handling similar claims. An attorney will help explain the deposition process and help you feel confident going into it. To speak with an attorney today about your case, contact an attorney online as soon as possible.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, Ca 92101
619-237-3490

Posted in: Auto Accidents
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