Deposition and Your Car Accident Claim
Many people injured in car collisions resolve their claims directly with an insurance company. Reaching a favorable settlement during the insurance process can save you and your attorney time and other resources. However, in many situations, insurance companies simply refuse to make a fair offer. Paying claims hurts insurance companies’ bottom lines. They are, after all, in business to maximize their own profits. Never accept an inadequate offer that will not cover your losses. If that is all the insurance company will offer, your car collision attorney can file a lawsuit in civil court to push for a fair result.
The civil litigation process is a complicated one and there are many steps you and your lawyer must take for your case to proceed. One of the most important steps of the process is discovery, during which your lawyer and the defense both use different legal tools to gather information about the other side’s case. One of the most common discovery tools is a deposition.
A deposition is far from the last step in the injury lawsuit process. Many things can happen after your lawyer completes depositions. Your car accident attorney can give you a detailed explanation of what to expect in your specific case.
What Is a Deposition?
To understand how your attorney might use a deposition to benefit your case, you should first understand what a deposition is. A deposition is an interview under oath with witnesses either side might use for their case.
Depositions do not take place in a courtroom at trial, but the witness is still under oath and at the risk of perjury as they would be in court. Your lawyer will question the witness regarding the facts of the case, such as what the witness recalls about how the collision occurred. A court reporter is present to take down everything that both lawyers and witnesses say during a deposition after your car accident.
How a Car Collision Lawyer Can Use a Deposition in Your Case
Depositions are critical since they inform your attorney of what witnesses will say at trial. This can help to eliminate surprises and help your lawyer better develop a trial strategy. The following are two ways that a deposition might impact your car collision lawsuit.
During a deposition, your lawyer can obtain key information about what witnesses know or do not know. Because they are under oath, witnesses must tell the truth about what they saw or experienced during a crash. This includes whether or not the defendant was negligent and at fault in causing the collision.
A skilled trial lawyer will know how to ask the right questions to get the answers they need from witnesses before ever stepping foot into a courtroom.
This interview can provide information to both sides (as both lawyers will be present during the deposition), including:
- Gaps in the witness’s memory;
- Inconsistencies in their accounts;
- Uncertainties when it comes to who was to blame;
- Personal biases.
When your car crash lawyer discovers holes in the defense’s case through a deposition, it allows them to build a stronger case on your behalf. In addition, the defense attorney should also realize that their case might be weaker than they initially thought.
The importance of this discovery is that it strengthens your lawyer’s ability to present a strong, persuasive case for settlement or trial. If the defense realizes their witness is not as reliable as they thought, the last thing they want to do is to put that witness before a jury at trial. This usually means they will be more willing to agree to a favorable settlement and avoid the need for a trial altogether.
If your case does go to trial, having the deposition transcript handy is essential when a formerly-deposed witness takes the stand. If the witness tries to change his or her story or gives inaccurate information, your attorney can use the deposition transcript to impeach—or challenge the credibility of—the witness’s testimony. This ensures that the jury hears the full and accurate story of what happened and what the witness may or may not recall. When a jury learns that a defense witness is unreliable, it can only strengthen your case and your chances of a successful verdict.
The Importance of Having the Right Car Collision Attorney Near You
As someone injured in a serious collision, you should understand that insurance companies have financial incentives to settle your case for as little as possible. In truth, they would gladly deny your claim entirely if they could find a way to justify doing so. For this reason, retain an experienced and proven trial lawyer to represent you throughout the claims process.
Some of the tactics that the insurance company may use in an attempt to minimize your settlement include:
- Starting with an unreasonably low initial offer (“low-ball”) to make later offers seem reasonable;
- Misinforming you about your legal rights;
- Advising you that retaining a lawyer will result in a lower settlement offer (this is against the law for them to do this in California);
- Making unreasonably broad medical record requests to find anything in your past that they can use to describe your injuries as a pre-existing condition;
- Pressuring you into providing a recorded statement (which they intend to use against you later).
It is no surprise that insurance companies prefer handling claims made by unrepresented people. Typically, people who suffer injuries in a car crash are unfamiliar with how the car legal process works, allowing insurance company representatives to dictate how your claim will resolve (in their favor).
When you retain a lawyer, you gain insight into the insurance process including your legal options. These options include refusing to accept an insufficient settlement offer and why you may need to escalate the matter by filing a lawsuit. With the right attorney on your side, the insurance company will know that a lawsuit and a successful jury verdict is a real possibility.
When you have an experienced trial lawyer handling your claim, the insurer will expect your attorney to know how to conduct depositions and use them to your advantage whenever possible. This is only one of many reasons why having the right trial lawyer gives you the upper hand in an injury claim.