Car accidents are powerfully stressful events. Following a car accident, you may face unexpected processes and meetings. Some of these events, especially those which involve legal proceedings, will probably seem quite confusing at first. A deposition is one of the events you may find yourself forced to participate in, and if you’re like most people, the mention of a deposition will probably leave you confused and a little frightened.
A deposition asks questions of the parties in a car accident. Usually, the defendant’s lawyer will question the plaintiff, and the plaintiff’s lawyer will examine the defendant. The deposition draws a clear idea of the circumstances of the accident and who caused it. After a deposition, lawyers have a better idea of how to move forward in gathering evidence for filing the claim in court.
If you’re in a car accident and your lawyer tells you that you’ll be in a deposition, don’t worry. Your lawyer will prepare you for this simple process, which will go a long way toward resolving your car accident claim.
Let’s look closely at depositions and how to act if you face a deposition.
What Is a Deposition?
Lawyers use depositions to elicit witness testimony in a case. In general, lawyers take depositions and will use the testimony of the deposed to support their finding of evidence in a claim. During a deposition, the lawyer will question the witness, and the witness must answer honestly. A stenographer and possibly a transcriber will record answers for evidence.
A deposition consists of a variety of questions, usually asked in private. The defendant’s lawyer will question the plaintiff while the plaintiff’s lawyer will question the defendant most of the time. Each party should have their lawyer to ensure fair questioning that doesn’t embarrass or confuse them.
Lawyers will often depose witnesses from the car accident or other people whose testimony would be relevant to the case. All depositions take place in private, usually in one of the lawyer’s offices.
Questions You Might Hear in a Deposition
During a deposition, the lawyers will focus on learning about who you are as a person and what information you know about the car accident.
The questions they’ll ask you may include:
- Are you aware that you are under oath and obligated to answer these questions truthfully?
- Have you ever been in a deposition before?
- Are you prepared to answer any questions in this deposition?
- What is your full name?
- How old are you?
- Where were you born?
- How long have you lived at your current address/where else have you lived?
- Who do you live with?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
- Where do you and your spouse work?
- Where did you go to school/college?
- What degree do you have?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit before?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Did you prepare for this deposition?
- What documents have you seen about this case?
- What did you see/experience in the accident?
Following this, the lawyer will ask specific questions tailored to the accident, asking you to relate what you saw and experienced and explain other evidence they may believe is relevant to the case. It’s essential to answer all questions honestly.
How Do I Prepare for a Deposition?
Before a deposition, your lawyer will take time to help you prepare. They will probably run through a mock deposition with you so that you can practice your answers and have some idea of what to expect in your official deposition. They will help you know how to answer appropriately and give you tips on how to answer without feeling too nervous or excited.
On the day of the deposition, be sure to come prepared. Wear clean, professional clothing, bring evidence of your injuries if you have them, and bring proof of and knowledge of lost wages, medical expenses, and other relevant evidence.
During the deposition, you should always answer questions truthfully and straightforwardly. Don’t be afraid of the lawyers, and don’t lose your temper. Don’t lie, and don’t just use a rehearsed, recited version of your story—tell your story honestly and without any pretense. If you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t hesitate to say so. Never make guesses or estimates without clearly explaining that they are guesses or estimates.
What Happens After a Deposition?
When a deposition is over, you will be free to go. You should talk with your lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.
As soon as the deposition is over, the officer in charge of recording it will seal it and send it to the lawyers and other parties who requested a copy. Lawyers use the evidence in the deposition to craft a compelling case for their client, whether in court or in negotiations.
You may have to go to court after deposition in many situations. If you do, you’ll have a much better idea of how to answer questions put to you in court since you’ve already answered similar questions before in private. Whether you go to court or not will be determined by the negotiations process and whether you and the defendant can reach a compromise and settlement in time.
What Is the Purpose of a Deposition?
In general, the purpose of a deposition is simply to gather more evidence. No lawyer wants to go into the courtroom and hear testimony that will surprise them and make their case worse for them. They want to get all the evidence beforehand and use it to prepare for a court case appropriately or to negotiate a settlement ahead.
One of the best outcomes of a deposition is when the parties settle the deposition. For example, the defendant may regret what happened and compromise on a settlement so the court doesn’t punish them further. Or, one of the lawyers may realize that their opponent has a powerful case and that they are not likely to win anything if they go to court.
Settling is ideal since a settlement is usually cheaper and takes much less time to negotiate. If you’re interested in seeing your case wrapped up as soon as possible, you may want to use a deposition to seek a settlement before taking your claim to court.
What Is the Process of a Car Accident Claim Leading to the Deposition and Beyond?
The car accident claim process can be long and complicated or quick and simple, depending on the circumstances of your car accident and how you and your lawyers prepare for the case.
Your car accident claim will go through these basic steps:
- A free consultation. First, you’ll want to call a car accident lawyer to get a free consultation. They will go over the details of your case and provide you with an estimate of how they think the case will proceed if you decide to take legal action against the defendant.
- A meeting. Next, you and your lawyer will want to meet in person to go deeper into the details of your case, review any evidence you have, and make a final decision about what to do. You’ll sign paperwork with your lawyer if you decide to work together on the case.
- Gathering evidence. Once you’ve decided to let your lawyer help you, they will begin to collect evidence (with your help and permission). The evidence will include medical records, medical bills, receipts for repairs to damaged property, photographs or video footage from the accident scene, witness statements, etc.
- Filing a complaint. As soon as they have a decent amount of evidence, your lawyers will put it together in a complaint to send out to the defendant. That complaint will explain why the accident caused you so much suffering and how the defendant is responsible for it.
- Receiving a response. The defendant and/or their lawyer will send a response either rejecting your claim or making an initial settlement offer.
- Gathering more evidence. At this point, lawyers on both sides will work together to provide one another with evidence relevant to the case. They will take depositions during this stage and may also ask for interrogatories (written questionnaires) from relevant witnesses or parties in the case.
- Negotiating for a settlement. With the evidence in hand, you and the defendant will negotiate to see if you can reach a favorable settlement. This settlement should cover the losses you suffered financially, physically, and personally. It should be an amount that meets your needs and that the defendant’s insurance is willing and able to pay.
- Going to court. If you can’t settle, your lawyers may take the case to court for a judge and jury to decide.
- Receiving a verdict. The judge and jury will hear the evidence your lawyers present in your case and will hand down a ruling on the type of settlement you deserve from the defendant.
- Receiving your money. Finally, your lawyer will help process the check from the defendant. At this point, they will take the percentage you agreed to pay them for their services and give the rest to you. You can take the money home and use it to pay off your debts and get back to living life as normal as possible.
As you can see, the car accident claims process is often long and drawn-out. If you want to see it completed as quickly as possible, you’ll want to start by getting in touch with a lawyer as soon as you can. Then, your lawyer can help speed things along towards a deposition and, hopefully, a favorable settlement. That way, you can get your money within months instead of waiting a year or more for the court process.
How Can I Find a Good Lawyer?
If you’re searching for a good lawyer, look for:
- Experience. You don’t want to start with a brand-new lawyer if you can help it. Look for someone who has several years of car accident claims experience and has completed many cases.
- Expertise. Look for a car accident lawyer with expertise in your area. If you were in a car accident, you don’t want someone who has mostly dealt with slip and fall accidents. Find someone who has helped others like you negotiate settlements before.
- Empathy. While your lawyer must know what they’re doing, it’s also crucial that they understand why they’re doing it. Try to find a lawyer passionate about understanding their clients and getting them the justice they deserve.
The right lawyer will work hard to get your claim going quickly. They will fight for you to make sure you receive a just settlement in compensation for your damages. They won’t rest until you’re able to get back on your feet and are starting to feel well again.