A deposition is an important part of personal injury litigation. Following a deposition, your lawyer may negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the defendant, or your case may proceed to trial. What you and others say during the deposition can substantially affect whether the case settles or goes to court.
Depositions happen relatively early in the life of a civil case. After you and the defendant file your complaints and answers, litigation will move into the discovery phase.
Your attorney will prepare you for a deposition and handle the entire process that comes afterward. The best way to navigate the civil litigation process is having a trusted car accident lawyer do it for you.
What Happens After a Deposition in a Car Accident Case Guide
- What Is a Deposition?
- Topics You May Encounter During a Deposition
- You Should Not Fear a Deposition as a Car Accident VictimâIt Is a Necessary Process That Your Lawyer Will Prepare You For
- What Car Accident Victims Should Be Wary of During a Deposition
- Does Trial Happen Immediately After Depositions Conclude?
- What Happens When a Car Accident Case Proceeds to Trial?
- Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer When Seeking Compensation for a Car Accident?
Depositions Are Part of the Discovery Stage of a Civil Lawsuit
In the discovery phase, each side in a car accident lawsuit discovers the evidence and testimony the other side has. To determine whether going to trial is a good idea, each side must gauge the strength of the other side’s evidence and witness testimony.
The deposition is part of the discovery phase in a car accident lawsuit because deponents may play a pivotal role in the outcome of a trial. Hence, their testimony is relevant to the discovery.
Those who may provide a deposition in a civil car accident case include:
- Drivers involved in the accident
- Passengers involved in the accident
- Eyewitnesses to the accident
- Witnesses who saw circumstances leading up to the accident (such as a motorist drinking heavily before driving)
- Expert witnesses (who may testify about many topics, including how the accident happened, who is at fault for the accident, and what damages resulted from the accident)
Testimony given during a deposition often helps during trial. Often, those who give a deposition may also testify separately at trial if either side believes calling the witness at trial can benefit their case.
The Deposition Happens Before Mediation (If Mediation Happens at All)
The steps in a civil car accident case generally include:
- Appeal (if necessary)
Once both sides complete the discovery process, mediation may take place. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows two sides in a case to reach an agreement without going to trial.
Mediation may not be successful if the personal injury lawyer and the lawyer(s) for the defendants in the lawsuit have already attempted to negotiate a settlement. After all, each side has had the opportunity to offer and agree to a settlement and did not reach an agreement.
Topics You May Encounter During a Deposition
As the victim of a car accident, there are several questions you can expect to hear during a deposition. These questions may come from your own lawyer or the lawyers for the defendant in your case.
They may include those related to:
- How the car accident happened
- Whether you were sober and alert at the time of the accident
- Whether anything you did contributed to the accident
- What injuries you’ve suffered because of the accident
- What medical care you’ve received for your injuries
- What other damages you’ve experienced because of your accident
The details of your accident and damages will inform many of the questions you hear. Your attorney will ensure you are ready for the questions you will likely hear during a deposition.
Also, consider that your lawyer will be by your side during the deposition. They may object to any inappropriate questions and advise you not to answer when necessary.
Who Asks Questions During the Deposition?
The lawyer for each side in a deposition can ask questions. When the lawyer for an opposing side is asking questions, it is called cross-examination.
If either the lawyer for the plaintiff or the defendant plans to call a witness at trial, they must include them on the witness list during the discovery. If the witness is on the list, they may first have to testify during deposition hearings. Either side may require that the witness testify during a deposition.
You Should Not Fear a Deposition as a Car Accident Victim—It Is a Necessary Process That Your Lawyer Will Prepare You For
You should not be afraid of the deposition process. Though you might prefer not to have to answer questions about your car accident, remember that a deposition can be necessary to get fair compensation for accident-related damages.
Plus, you should know that:
- Your attorney will prepare you extensively for any deposition you must participate in
- Your role in the deposition may be relatively brief
- Your attorney may terminate a deposition if they believe the liable parties’ attorneys are questioning you in bad faith
- You can complete a written deposition process, which may be preferable for you
Your lawyer will explain whether a deposition will be necessary for your case. An attorney can negotiate a fair settlement without a deposition taking place.
How Your Attorney May Prepare You for a Deposition
It is in your and your attorney’s interests for you to perform as well as possible during your deposition.
Your attorney may position you for a successful deposition by:
- Anticipating the opponent’s lines of questioning: While your lawyer may not know exactly what questions the other side’s lawyer will ask, they may anticipate the general lines of questioning you will face. Your attorney will work to ensure you’re not caught off guard by any questions.
- Ensuring you’re confident in your answers: Your attorney will only want you to tell the truth. However, your lawyer will understand that the slightest misspoken word can negatively affect your case. Therefore, your attorney will ensure you’re confident in answering any question you face.
- Putting you through a mock deposition: Depending on your attorney’s approach, they may simulate a deposition to further prepare you.
Your lawyer will also answer any questions you have about the deposition process. The personal injury attorney you hire will almost certainly have prior experience with depositions, and they will rely on that experience as they prepare for your deposition.
What Car Accident Victims Should Be Wary of During a Deposition
Even with ample preparation, car accident victims should be cautious of potential missteps during a deposition.
You should be cautious about:
- Answering questions you are unsure about: You may defer to your lawyer for advice or ask the questioning attorney to rephrase a question that you don’t clearly understand.
- Giving unclear answers: Precision is vital when answering questions during a deposition. Never assume that others will know what you mean. Think hard before you answer a question, and say precisely what you mean.
- Intentionally confusing questions: Attorneys for the defendant in your case may intentionally try to trip you up during the deposition. If the lawyer can get you to say something that reflects poorly on your case, the lawyer may use your statement as evidence at trial.
- Fatigue: Depositions can take a long time. As fatigue sets in, you may make mistakes. Get sufficient rest the night before any deposition hearings, then caffeinate and take breaks as necessary.
Your lawyer may provide additional guidance before your deposition hearings.
Does Trial Happen Immediately After Depositions Conclude?
Not usually. The civil justice system is often slow, especially when a case reaches the pre-trial or trial stage.
Between discovery and a pending trial, your attorney may:
- Continue seeking evidence and information related to your case: Your attorney will remain vigilant to any information, testimony, or evidence that can benefit your case. Whether they’re still negotiating a settlement with liable parties or intent on going to trial, new information can make for a stronger case.
- Continue negotiating with an insurance company or other liable party: Either side in a civil car accident case may adjust their negotiating stance after
- Continue to prepare for trial: Your attorney may continue to organize evidence, rehearse their arguments, and prepare you for the trial process. They can do this as they continue to negotiate a settlement.
One or both sides may request that a judge grant a stay in a civil trial. A stay prevents the trial from moving forward and can be necessary for several reasons. If parties approach a final settlement, a stay can place a pause in an imminent trial.
A stay may be a positive or negative development, depending on the reason for the stay and how it affects your case. Your attorney will update you throughout the legal process, explaining the ramifications of stays and any other developments.
What Happens When a Car Accident Case Proceeds to Trial?
If your case proceeds to trial, your lawyer will handle most of the work.
Your attorney will lead you through every stage of the trial, which may include:
- Opening arguments
- Presentation of evidence
- Questioning and cross-examination of witnesses
- Closing arguments
Your attorney will request that the jury awards you compensation that reflects your accident-related damages. If the jury agrees, it will award the amount that your lawyer seeks (or more).
Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer When Seeking Compensation for a Car Accident?
Every car accident victim can lead their own fight for compensation. However, you have read about the complexity of depositions, and that is just one part of the civil justice process. If your case goes to trial, the process may be substantially more complex.
Hiring a car accident attorney allows you to:
- Keep your focus on recovery: Car accident victims deserve to rest and heal after their collisions. However, if you don’t hire a lawyer, you may have to spend much of your time and energy on your claim or lawsuit. You can put your health at further risk if you focus on your case at the expense of your recovery.
- Rely on your lawyer’s knowledge and experience: Attorneys go to law school, learn their state’s laws, and often have extensive experience leading car accident cases. Experience is valuable in many fields, and the law is no exception.
- Avoid the stress of a claim or lawsuit: Car accident cases aren’t just physically taxing but may also be immensely stressful. Most car accident victims are already facing immense stress, so trying to navigate a claim or lawsuit can be unwise.
- Have a valuable advisor leading you through every step of your case: Having an extra set of eyes and ears may offer welcome support during a difficult time. A lawyer can answer your questions, provide advice, and filter your case through a legal perspective.
There are many reasons to hire a lawyer after a car accident. You don’t have to fight for a fair financial recovery on your own.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Will Also Provide Valuable Financial Support
Most personal injury lawyers use contingency fees. The client pays no upfront compensation to the law firm but agrees to pay the firm a percentage of their financial recovery.
If the law firm gets a settlement or judgment for the client, the lawyer receives a fee. If the law firm does not achieve its objective, the client pays the lawyer nothing.
You can research law firms in your area and hire a firm with strong client reviews and proven results in cases like yours.