If you were in a car accident someone else caused, you can bring a lawsuit against them in civil court to seek compensation for your injuries and related damages with the help of an experienced car accident lawyer.
A lawsuit doesn’t happen all at once. There are multiple stages along the way as the case winds through the court system. One of the crucial stages is gathering evidence about the case, a process called discovery. This, too, takes place in several stages. One of the most important of these stages is the deposition.
To understand what happens after a deposition, you first need to understand what a deposition is. Depositions are spoken or written testimony in which you’ll be asked a series of questions by the defendant’s lawyer (or their insurance company’s lawyer). These are not part of a trial. Depositions occur before trial and often take place in law offices rather than courtrooms.
Before the deposition, you or your lawyer will likely have received interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions concerning the car accident, and usually include how it happened, what the nature and extent of your injuries are, and what economic compensation you are seeking for the injuries and other harm.
While a deposition takes place before trial, you will be sworn in, just as you would in a trial. You must give all your answers under oath.
The purpose of the deposition is to ascertain what you remember about the accident under pressure, so to speak. The attorneys will have read the answers to the interrogatories, but will ask about the event, perhaps in more detail. They can also introduce new topics in a deposition. You must answer all their questions verbally.
How to Handle a Deposition
Before the deposition, you should review all the relevant facts about your case with your car accident lawyer, such as what happened and when, what you did, how you were injured, and so on, so they are firmly in your mind.
Why? Because if your answers in any way conflict with the information in the interrogatories or call any of your previous statements into question, the defense attorney can try to use that against you if the case goes to trial.
Let’s say that your interrogatories state that you lost consciousness when the accident happened. Passing out can occur if you’ve hit your head, for example, and is often a symptom of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion.
The defense attorney may ask you a question about the arrival of the ambulance, for example, in the deposition. If you answer in a way that indicates you saw the ambulance arrive when you were supposedly unconscious, the attorney can use that answer to impugn your credibility. This can result in multiple dilemmas for the deposed.
Tactics You’ll Face During Your Deposition
First, they can imply that your word isn’t believable. If you were unconscious, how did you see emergency vehicles arriving? Even if it’s because you briefly regained consciousness, the attorney can use it to imply that you aren’t credible.
Second, they can cast doubt on the nature and extent of your injuries. Not all TBIs cause loss of consciousness. One that does is generally more serious than one that doesn’t. If your answers to deposition questions make it seem that your injuries were less serious, or that the accident happened in a way that means their client is not responsible, defense attorneys will try to use this against you.
The reason is simple. Defense attorneys are there to try to make someone other than their client seem responsible for the accident, so the client or their insurance company doesn’t have to compensate you for your injuries. Failing that, they will try to minimize your injuries or even deny that the accident caused your injuries. Their job, in a sense, is to minimize or eliminate what their clients pay you in damage compensation. That isn’t fair or just, but it’s a hard reality.
What’s the solution? Review the facts of the case with your attorney so you are completely certain about the fact scenarios. Don’t deviate from the interrogatory. If you initially said you turned left, don’t misspeak and say you turned right.
Make your answers brief and factual. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. If you don’t remember, it’s okay to say so. It is very risky to speculate, guess, or provide an answer you’re not sure of, because, again, the defense attorney can try to use your deposition testimony against you to make a jury question your credibility.
The defense attorney will also watch your non-verbal presentation for conformity with your interrogatories. If the interrogatories state that you are paralyzed on the left side, for example, but you do not appear to be at the deposition, they may also note that and argue against you receiving compensation for those injuries.
After the Deposition
You and your attorney will receive a transcript of the deposition proceedings.
The defense attorney will report back to the defendant and the insurance company. At that point, negotiations for an out-of-court settlement of your damage claim may begin. Your attorney will negotiate for the highest possible claim payment or settlement.
Alternatively, the plaintiff’s lawyer may not offer an out-of-court settlement and your case will proceed to trial. They may do this if they see a way to exploit your answers or physical presentation to argue for a smaller settlement than you are requesting or to have your case dismissed entirely.
Most car accident cases with compelling evidence settle out of court. Judges and juries in a court case, if a lawsuit proceeds to trial, may show more sympathy to car accident victims than insurance companies, because insurance companies far too often focus on their own bottom line rather than the cause of justice. Insurance companies know this, and don’t want their cases heard before a judge and jury.
If you need further information, contact a car accident lawyer licensed in the State of the accident for a free consultation.