A deposition is a major part of an accident case. It is an essential step in achieving financial recovery after a crash. A car accident attorney can help you prepare for a deposition and understand your rights under the state rules of civil procedure. Your attorney can also help you know what steps to take to maximize your recovery after the deposition ends.
A deposition is an out-of-court testimony given by parties, experts, and witnesses. The purpose of a deposition is to gather information about the facts of a case. In a personal injury matter, each side uses a deposition to learn more about the cause of the accident and potential liability.
The purpose of a deposition is to help attorneys prepare for trial. The deposition will help your attorney understand what they are getting into. A deposition helps attorneys prepare and hone their case strategy. The facts you will learn during a deposition may help your team recognize a reasonable settlement offer, when to accept an offer, and whether your case should continue to trial.
Depositions are a part of the fact-finding phase called discovery. Each side of the case will ask questions to learn more about liability and injuries. In addition to questions about the case, you may answer some basic questions about your background.
The attorneys may ask some of these questions:
Preparing for a deposition is as essential as being fully prepared for trial. As a part of preparations, your attorney may speak to you about how to answer the opposing attorney’s questions. They will also be the first line of defense if the other side does not operate within the rules of civil procedure that apply to depositions.
Deposition testimony is hearsay under the rules of evidence and cannot be direct evidence at trial. However, a few situations exist when the statements made during a deposition can be admissible at trial.
Your lawyer might admit deposition testimony when:
Yes, a court reporter will record your deposition testimony verbatim. A court reporter is a legal professional whose job is to record testimony, including deposition testimony. After the deposition, the court reporter will use their record to create a transcript of the witness’s deposition that each side will use while the case is pending.
If the case does not settle, then it will continue to trial. A civil trial is a complex process despite what you may have seen on television. During the actual trial, you can expect opening arguments, direct and cross-examinations of each witness, presentation of evidence, trial motions, closing arguments, jury deliberations, and a verdict. There is no uniform timeline for a case, but a personal injury trial may take several weeks to a few months to complete.
Preparation begins many months before the actual day of the trial. Your legal team will work to prepare you for trial. Your attorney will examine the evidence you collected after the accident to find facts supporting your claim. Here are some actions your legal counsel may take to make sure you are ready for the big day:
Your lawyer will contact and interview any witnesses to the accident. They might have already had a deposition, but preparing for a deposition and a trial is different.
Witnesses will need to know what to anticipate on the witness stand. Witnesses should know that their trial testimony is not a casual conversation with the court or opposing counsel.
Your attorney should also prepare your witnesses for cross-examination questions. Cross-examination allows opposing counsel to ask your witnesses questions to test their credibility. This part of the trial can be intimidating for witnesses, and at the moment, a witness may give too much information away. That is the purpose of trial prep. Speaking to your attorney can ease your witnesses’ anxiety about cross-examination.
Expert witnesses are an invaluable source for personal injury plaintiffs. An expert’s testimony can explain your injuries, the effect on your life, and how long those effects may last. Their testimony may also help prove that the accident caused your injuries. Causation is usually the most challenging element of an accident claim to prove.
Part of your attorney’s job is to prepare the expert witness to testify. Although experts are professionals and can explain their opinions well, presenting their findings to a jury can be difficult. Learning how to communicate with a jury is essential for an expert witness.
If you choose to testify at trial, your attorney will spend time preparing your testimony. During prep, your attorney may ask you to tell your story as if you are explaining it to a jury. They may also do a mock cross-examination to prepare you for what the opposing attorney may ask while you are on the stand.
While the case is pending, your attorney and the opposing side will complete the discovery. Typically, before the parties schedule depositions, each side will ask and answer questions called interrogatories and respond to requests to produce documents. The rules of civil procedure in most states allow parties to send out amended discovery requests. If either party decides to recall a witness or call a new one, they may need to send an amended discovery request.
Your attorney may decide whether certain motions are necessary. If they need to file a motion, the court will schedule a date to argue it, and the other side will have an opportunity to respond. Each side will argue the motion’s merits, and the judge will decide.
Negotiations will continue until each side either decides on a satisfactory settlement amount or that the case needs to continue to trial. After depositions, your attorney may send a demand letter to the other side. A demand letter is a document that summarizes and describes your injuries and other losses to the insurance company. Your attorney will also include a settlement demand.
Before your case goes to trial, you may get a settlement offer from the insurance company. Discuss the terms of the settlement offer before accepting anything from the insurance company. Some things to consider before accepting a settlement offer include the following.
After an accident, you may recover losses for medical bills, lost income, pain, suffering, etc. In addition to your current losses, you can receive compensation for anticipated losses like future income and payment for rehabilitative costs or medical equipment.
Claims adjusters do not owe you loyalty. They focus on paying as little as possible to resolve claims. Many accident victims receive fast settlement offers from insurance companies after an accident. It may be wise to wait until your losses present themselves before accepting a settlement offer. For example, your injuries may only fully recover months after the accident. Accepting a quick settlement offer may not cover your injuries as they progress.
Take advantage of your legal team. The accident attorney you hire is your source of information as you go through this case. You can ask them questions and learn more about what to expect from an accident. Trust your attorney’s opinion about when to accept an offer and when to counteroffer.
The lawyer that you choose matters. After an accident, you may wonder what to look for in an attorney, especially if this is your first case. Some of the things you should look for in a lawyer include the following:
Your attorney should have a track record of success representing accident clients. You can learn more about their experience in a few ways. Online client reviews can give you an idea about client experience and give you a general idea of the outcomes the attorney gets. However, take these reviews with a grain of salt.
You can discuss their qualifications, education, and success record during your initial consultation.
Most accident cases take months to complete. You will work with this legal team for many weeks, months, or even years. Comfort with the legal team is essential. They will see your medical records, have information about your income, and learn other things that may leave you feeling vulnerable. Choose a team that you trust and feel good about being a part of their team.
In addition to a successful track record, the attorney you choose should have experience with your type of case. Specific experience in winning cases for people with injuries similar to yours can help you feel confident that you are in good hands.
Many accident victims fear they cannot afford an attorney, so they do not pursue the compensation they may deserve after a crash. Fortunately, many accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis.
A contingency fee is a payment structure allowing clients to defer payment until their case settles. The attorney will take a percentage of the final settlement amount as payment for fees. This allows all accident victims to seek legal representation without having funds to pay attorney fees up front. You can hire a lawyer and begin the process without any additional financial concerns.
Contact a personal injury attorney immediately if you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident. Your accident attorney will be by your side when you file the lawsuit, during a deposition, and throughout the process. Hiring a lawyer in your area puts you in the best position to recover the money you deserve after an accident. Contact an attorney today.
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