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If 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.
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.
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 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.
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:
After the deposition, several things may happen:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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