If you suffered injuries in an accident because of another person’s wrongful, intentional, or negligent actions, you may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit to get the compensation you need to cover your losses.
Unfortunately, many people ready to embark on this legal journey may have no idea what they need to do first or what this process involves, causing them a significant amount of stress, anxiety, and worry.
That is why in this blog post, we want to help you understand what you may encounter during these legal proceedings, especially when it comes to depositions and mediations. We hope with the below information, you have a better understanding of what these legal processes entail, what you can expect in each of these stages, and how an experienced personal injury attorney can help you through this whole process.
What Exactly Is a Deposition?
A deposition is an out-of-court, sworn testimony by a witness in a civil lawsuit. At a deposition hearing, the attorneys will direct several questions to the witness, and the witness will respond to each of these questions. A court reporter will transcribe these responses.
Typically, the deposed witness is often critical to the lawsuit, or in some way, connected to one of the parties involved in the suit. Yet, if one of these witnesses is not willing to be deposed, a subpoena will often be served. A subpoena compels an individual to testify at a given place and time.
General Reasons For a Deposition
There are numerous reasons why there are depositions in a personal injury case.
For instance, they:
- Get Information: Questioning a witness allows the attorney to gain new information to help their case.
- Record Testimony: Recording a deposition allows this information to still be available for court proceedings, even in instances where a witness disappears, dies, or falls ill before or during the trial.
- Hold Witnesses Accountable: Depositions secure witness testimony and act to keep these witnesses accountable for their stories.
- Get Facts When They Are Fresh: Because legal proceedings can take months, if not years, to begin, a deposition will allow the witness to record their information while it is still fresh in their minds.
When Do These Depositions Happen?
After a summons is served to the defendant of a personal injury lawsuit, they are provided the chance to file an answer to it. If their response indicates that they want to defend the case, the discovery phase will begin.
The discovery phase is the formal exchange of information about evidence related to witnesses and the case. Because this phase allows each party to see what the other side will present at trial, it is during this part of the legal process that depositions will be taken.
What Can You Expect in a Personal Injury Case Deposition?
Following a personal injury accident, the defendant’s attorney will likely ask you to sit for a deposition. Although the purpose of this deposition is to gather information about the facts of the case, the opposing counsel may use the deposition to try to get you to admit to something or make a statement that weakens your case.
However, because you are under oath during a deposition, you should not exaggerate the truth about what happened or lie about anything that occurred. If you are unsure about a question, you can simply say you do not know instead of guessing. You should also make sure you take your time to answer any of the questions, so you do not accidentally say anything that could be used against you later in your case.
Yet, even though the questions in a deposition will depend on the case, in general, personal injury victims must often answer the following typical questions:
- Can you discuss the events that led up to your accident?
- What types of injuries and illnesses did you suffer from before the accident?
- What type of injuries did you sustain in the accident?
- Did you receive medical treatment after the accident?
- What was the extent of this medical treatment?
- Were you able to work following the accident?
- Did these injuries impact your ability to live your life?
- What are the long-term consequences of the injuries you sustained?
- Did you ever file a personal injury lawsuit in the past?
In addition, the lawyers may also ask you questions related to your criminal record, medical background, and even your employment history. However, because of what your answers may mean to the success of your case, it is usually recommended you reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you with this process. These attorneys can work with you before your deposition to ensure that you know how to handle each of the questions that will be thrown your way.
What Happens After the Depositions Conclude?
Once the depositions are complete, each party will receive a copy of the transcript from the depositions. This will allow the lawyers to look for any errors or inaccuracies. Depending on what these attorneys find and other circumstances, the attorneys may need to depose more witnesses to establish a picture of how the accident occurred or to dispute any wrong or false information.
In addition, the defense team may also ask for an independent medical examination of the victim. Generally, the defendant’s insurance is the one to choose the doctor, and the medical care professional’s assessment will be compared to the plaintiff’s medical records.
Once both parties have gathered all the information and evidence needed for their case, the discovery portion of the legal proceedings will end. This stage will often take up the most considerable part of the personal injury lawsuit.
The Mediation Stage
After the discovery stage, if a settlement has still not been reached, the court may request that both parties attempt a mediated settlement before heading to trial. Mediation is a procedure where both parties discuss their disputes about the case with the assistance of a trained, impartial third party who will assist them in settling. These mediations may be informal or will happen through a scheduled settlement conference.
How Does Mediation Work?
A mediation conference is usually held at a mutually agreeable neutral place, such as a private facility or the mediator’s office. However, future negotiations between the mediator and the parties can be held over the phone once the initial mediation is complete. These sessions will often require the parties involved in the case to be present, as well as their attorneys, the mediator, and any other individuals that were agreed upon in advance.
A traditional mediation may involve these stages:
- The Introduction: The mediator will give an opening statement, including information about their background, the parties involved in the case, and their representatives. Then administrative matters are discussed and completed, including confidentiality of the proceedings, the mediator’s fees, and the signing of the Agreement to Mediate, if not already done so.
- Determining the Problem: The next stage will allow each party to give an account of the circumstances and the facts that lead to the dispute. These issues will all be identified and summarized.
- Presentation of Options: The parties with the mediator will then identify areas of settlement, with the mediator often encouraging solutions or other options they see as possible. Negotiations by the parties will continue until the mediator ends the mediation or continues the mediation in a subsequent session.
- The Agreement: If a settlement is reached, the parties will jot down the terms of the deal.
One of the many benefits of mediation is it is confidential. Mediators will not disclose any information revealed during the mediation. Nobody transcribes or records the sessions. After mediation, the mediators will also destroy any notes taken during the session.
What Happens if Mediation Fails?
If an agreement cannot be reached through the mediation process, there are numerous options of what comes next, including:
- The Trial: The next phase may be taking the case to trial, where both sides will have an opportunity to lay out their case and arguments, and then the court or the jury will make a ruling on it.
- Head Back to Mediation: If the parties agree, they can restart the mediation process with a different mediator.
- Continue with Negotiations: The parties can also choose to begin negotiations on their own in an attempt to come up with an agreement without having any formal proceedings involved.
If these negotiations or the mediation fails once again, the case can still proceed to trial.
The Advantages of Mediation
Typically, because the mediation process tends to be informal, quick, and inexpensive, it can provide both sides with numerous benefits.
A sampling of how mediation tends to produce these benefits:
- Better Control of the Case: Mediations give parties an equal say in the process, and since there is no determination of fault, the parties have an opportunity to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their problems and conflicts.
- Satisfactory Results: If a party has an opportunity to come up with a solution to their own problem, they often feel more satisfied than if a third party imposes the solution on them.
- Customized Agreements: These mediated agreements often help resolve any interpersonal and procedural issue, allowing the parties to tailor the settlement to their situations and hash out specific details.
- Help with Future Issues: After a resolution, if subsequent disputes arise, the parties are more likely to use a problem-solving forum to resolve their differences instead of pursuing an adversarial approach.
How Long After Deposition Is Mediation?
Generally, when it comes to mediation, there is no specific timeframe for how fast they will happen after depositions are taken. Since these mediations occur when both parties have a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their case, this timeframe can vary. However, on average, mediations tend to take place between nine months and eighteen months after an accident.
How Can an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Help You With this Legal Process?
As you can see, these legal proceedings can get complicated, especially for those who do not have a thorough understanding of the laws regarding these processes. That is why, following an accident, you should reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. With these skilled legal professionals on your side, you can have the help you need to take on this complex legal battle from start to finish. In fact, your attorneys can handle every aspect of your case while you focus on what matters most—your recovery and healing.
Once retained, your lawyers can:
- Go over your accident, evaluate your claim, and determine your legal options.
- Answer any concerns you have about the proceedings and provide you with the legal support you need during this challenging time in your life.
- Properly investigate the incident and secure the evidence needed to show what happened and who was at fault.
- Prepare you for deposition and be ready to question the other witnesses in the case.
- Handle all the discussions and negotiations with the other side, including the insurance company, and work hard to obtain a just settlement offer.
- Head to trial if the other side is unwilling to settle your case for a fair amount, and go after maximum damages.
If an accident harmed you or a loved one and you want to pursue legal action, do not wait any longer to secure the legal help you need. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today for a free case evaluation and let your lawyer show you how they can take on this fight and go after the justice and damages you deserve.