A lawsuit in a personal injury matter can involve many different stages. When a personal injury case reaches the point of a deposition, it can significantly affect how the case proceeds. The testimony in a deposition can provide valuable insight to both sides in a personal injury dispute and can garner momentum to reach a resolution.
A personal injury lawyer protects your rights and represents you through each step of a personal injury case including through the preparation of and during a deposition. How a party presents themselves and answers the questions asked in a deposition can significantly affect a personal injury case’s outcome.
What Is a Deposition in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A deposition in a personal injury lawsuit is an opportunity for the attorneys to ask questions of a witness or party involved in the case in person. Most often, a deposition occurs with all parties at the agreed-upon location. However, there may be instances where parties agree to a virtual deposition.
A deposition occurs as part of the preparation for a trial and is an essential step in the discovery process. However, a deposition can also lead to further settlement negotiations depending on the information learned during the questioning and testimony. A deposition involves a lawyer asking a witness questions relevant to the case.
However, questioning can delve into a wide range of topics as lawyers try to learn as much information as possible to help them. In addition, although a deposition occurs outside of a court setting, the parties involved are under oath, and the answers to the questions provided may become evidence in the case of a personal injury trial.
What Is the Common Timeline for When a Deposition Occurs After a Personal Injury?
During a personal injury accident, a deposition is not likely to occur immediately. In most cases, your attorney can first work to build your claim and attempt to negotiate a settlement on your behalf outside of court. If your lawyer believes a settlement agreement is unlikely or negotiations fail, they may recommend filing a lawsuit in court seeking damages for your losses and injuries.
Once a lawsuit filing occurs, the defendant and plaintiff can work to prepare their side of the case. Discovery is one of the first stages following the official filing of the claim for damages with the court in a personal injury matter. During the discovery stage of a lawsuit, a deposition can occur as both sides collect the evidence they need to prove their case.
As a personal injury victim, this is the likely time frame for a defense lawyer to request your deposition. Depositions take place in preparation for a possible trial.
Who Is Subject to Depositions in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
You may feel singled out as an accident victim when the request for deposition occurs. As the victim of a personal injury accident, it is common for the defendant’s attorneys to want to speak with you about the accident, your injuries, and other related areas of concern.
However, depositions do not only apply to the plaintiff in a personal injury case. Depositions can occur for any witness that can provide testimony relevant to the case, including the defendant. The deposition offers an opportunity for a party’s lawyers to learn as much as possible about the testimony a witness may provide in court during a trial for the opposing side.
How Can Your Lawyer Help With the Deposition Process?
Understandably, you may feel apprehensive and nervous about sitting for a deposition. However, when you hire a lawyer to represent you in a personal injury case, they can help you prepare for a deposition and understand what you can expect.
Although the questions the opposing parties may ask you during a deposition often relate to the personal injury accident and subsequent recovery, there may be instances when the questioning may appear to run adrift.
Fortunately, your attorney can help you anticipate the questions they may ask you beforehand to help relieve some of the stress and uncertainty you may have about the process.
Your lawyer can also come to support and represent you during the deposition.
Depending on the case and the information covered by the deposition, the questioning could range from a few hours or may transpire over a few days. Additionally, your lawyer can arrange a time to fulfill the deposition request that works for you and your schedule by communicating with the opposing party’s counsel.
Who Can Ask the Questions at a Deposition?
A deposition often begins with the attorney that requested the deposition asking the witness the first line of questions. Typically, scheduled depositions focus on one party at a time.
For example, as a personal injury accident victim, the defendant’s attorneys will likely be the first to question you during your deposition. If multiple parties are potentially liable in a case, the other parties’ attorneys may also have questions for you.
Once the opposing party completes their questioning, your attorney can also ask follow-up questions or ask you to clarify issues they deem require more explanation if they deem necessary. A deposition creates a record that can become evidence in court as you advance toward a trial.
Reviewing the Transcript of the Deposition
During the deposition, a court reporter will transcribe everything said by the parties. A court reporter needs time to prepare the transcript and provide the finalized copy to all parties involved.
After a deposition, you and your lawyer will review the transcript. During this time-consuming but necessary process, you and your attorney will ensure that the record accurately reflects what everyone said during the deposition and that it reflects the context of the information provided.
If any issues arise with the transcript, your attorney can address those concerns by going through the proper procedures, whether through the court reporter, opposing counsel, or the court.
After both parties review the transcripts, negotiations may attempt to resolve the case without the need to go to trial. A deposition provides a window for parties to get insight into the evidence the other side will likely present in a trial to prove their case. Depending on the information learned during the deposition, the strength of a plaintiff’s claim or case may become more apparent. This can often motivate the parties to negotiate more in-depth to settle the case.
Although a deposition is not guaranteed to open the door to more productive negotiations or a settlement, it is a common outcome in many personal injury cases. If you receive a settlement offer that you find reasonable, you can choose to accept that offer during this stage of the case and avoid going to a trial. However, if the negotiations are unsuccessful, your attorney can proceed with continuing preparations for trial.
How Long Can Negotiations Go on in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Negotiations in a personal injury case are ongoing, and an agreement can occur anytime before a court reaches a verdict on the matter. Settlements can happen early on before a deposition or even a lawsuit filing, or a settlement can happen at the last minute when a trial is underway. There is no set time for when negotiations must happen. They can occur on and off during the lawsuit process as the parties learn new information or a party makes an offer for consideration by the injury victim.
Ultimately, in many cases, all parties want to avoid a trial when possible so long as they can reach a favorable resolution. There is no way to know with certainty how a particular case will end; however, keeping negotiations on the table as you move through the lawsuit process gives the parties a better chance at resolving the lawsuit outside of court.
Mediation Is a Common Step Following Depositions
Mediation may be required following depositions depending on the state where the personal injury lawsuit occurs. If the parties cannot agree on a resolution, the court may order the parties to mediation. Alternatively, parties may agree to submit to mediation in a case. Mediation involves a third party that has no interest in the case but can work to serve as the middle person to negotiate a resolution that is acceptable for each side.
Mediation can work, but it is not always successful at resolving a case. If the mediation sessions prove beneficial and the parties can agree on a settlement, the case can avoid trial. However, if mediation fails, then the case continues towards trial.
Preparation for a Trial May Continue
The negotiations or mediation process may help the parties gain better insight and can work to bring the parties closer to the possibility of an agreement. However, the details and terms of a favorable agreement for both parties may still be out of reach. When independent negotiations between the parties after a deposition and any subsequent mediation do not help the parties reach an agreement, the attorneys can continue preparing for the trial in a lawsuit. If additional time is necessary for preparation, the court may extend the trial date, or if the parties believe that an agreement is likely but need more time, they may also request additional time from the court.
Your attorney can continue to build your case after a deposition. Trial preparation and additional discovery may follow after deposition and when negotiations are unsuccessful.
Deposition May Indicate Additional Evidence or Testimony That Can Benefit Your Case
A deposition may reveal information unbeknownst to a party that can help with the case. If your attorney learns of available evidence or other witnesses that could provide relevant testimony during a deposition, they can then take action to follow up on that information as they continue to build and strengthen your case. This follow-up can include deposing other witnesses, bringing in experts, and retrieving records or other evidence available through the discovery process.
How Long Will It Take to Reach a Resolution After a Deposition in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
There is no set timeframe by which a resolution must occur after a deposition. Each case develops at its own pace. While in some cases, a deposition may accelerate negotiations and drive a settlement agreement, in other cases, it may trigger more discovery and solidify the need for a trial. After your deposition, you can meet with your lawyer to discuss how it went and the likely next steps in your case.
Depositions are only one stage of the personal injury lawsuit process, and once they occur, you can continue the process toward reaching a resolution. Your case may eventually resolve through settlement negotiations or a trial. In some cases, it may take longer than expected, but your attorney can keep you informed of how your case is going and help you approach it one step at a time.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.