If you've been injured due to another party's negligence, you're legally entitled to compensation for your damages. If you accept the first settlement from an insurance company, you probably will not come close to collecting a full and fair settlement. That's because insurance adjusters are charged with protecting the profitability of the insurers. To get a full financial recovery from your damages, you need to hire a professional personal injury lawyer to represent your interests in the case. There are many stages between filing a claim and receiving a full settlement for your accident, but one of the most crucial ones is the deposition. A successful testimony can mean the difference between tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a settlement. Before you speak to an insurance adjuster, defendant attorney, or representative for the at-fault party, contact a Florida personal injury law firm.
What Is a Deposition?
If you're injured in an accident, you could be entitled to a substantial sum of money, depending on the severity of your injuries. Before an insurance company agrees to a fair amount, their representatives will want to be sure they've examined all of the evidence. This includes the plaintiff's testimony and the testimony of any witnesses to the accident. The deposition is a question-and-answer session where attorneys can ask subjects questions while under oath. You can have your attorney present with you during a deposition and confer with them if you require it. At the beginning of the deposition, you are sworn in by a court reporter, who will record and transcribe the entire session. Both parties' attorneys receive a transcript of the deposition, and your testimony is admissible in a court proceeding. This is your time to tell your side of the story, but it's also a process where many plaintiffs make mistakes that can jeopardize their case.
What Should You Expect During a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case
You or your attorney may receive a subpoena for deposition. This will detail the date, time, and place where the deposition will occur. It's been much more common to be deposed via Zoom or a similar platform than it was before 2020. If the deposition occurs in person, your attorney should be with you. Otherwise, they will join the call. Depositions are almost always audio-recorded and sometimes video-recorded. Additionally, a court reporter will be recording the interaction on a stenography machine.
In most cases, the plaintiff's lawyer will be cordial or friendly at the beginning to put you at ease. They are not allowed to be hostile or abusive at any time during the deposition. The court reporter will swear you in, and the attorney will begin asking you questions. Depending on your importance to the case, the deposition can last for several hours. You are allowed to take breaks, as necessary.
Your attorney cannot interrupt or object as they would in a trial unless the defendant's attorney violates a rule. That's why it's important for you to ask for recesses if you feel uncomfortable with a course of questioning.
Preparing for a Civil Deposition
Depositions can be stressful, particularly if you're the plaintiff and your settlement hinges on a successful outcome. A professional accident attorney will prepare you for your deposition. That does not mean that they will tell you specifically what to say — the deposition may go on for several hours — but they should discuss the types of questions you are likely to ask. For instance, if you were injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, they may ask you how you knew the other driver was drunk at the time. If you are unprepared for this question, you may answer in such a way that would cast doubt on whether or not the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the incident. Your attorney should be able to predict that a question like that will be asked and prepare you for it.
You can expect to be asked the same question in different ways. Often, this is to see if there is a discrepancy in the way you answer. If there is, the attorney may use the differences to discredit your testimony at trial.
What Happens After the Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase of the case involves the exchange of evidence. It may seem counterintuitive that attorneys would reveal all of the information they're planning on using in the trial beforehand, but if they don't, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible. That means that your attorney has to disclose all records, depositions, physical evidence, and medical reports that they've used to build their case, but it also means that your attorney will be able to examine the plaintiff's evidence.
Once all of the cards are on the tables, the attorneys will begin the final phase of negotiations before a trial. This is where many cases are settled because it's in both parties' interests to avoid a protracted and unpredictable trial. Based on experience, precedent, and the particulars of the case, the attorneys from both sides should have a reasonable approximation of what the other side will settle for. If they are close enough, they may be able to settle ahead of trial. Otherwise, the case will go to court.
What Should You Expect During a Personal Injury Trial?
The court proceedings begin with pretrial motions. Either side may file pretrial motions in advance of a trial. If the court grants a motion, it can result in outcomes like the suppression of evidence or the dismissal of the case. Once the court has processed the pretrial motions, if there is still a case to go forward, jury selection begins. In Florida civil cases, juries may have six or twelve members. Your attorney will present opening arguments, followed by the opening arguments of the defendant's attorney. Your attorney will then present evidence and call witnesses. The defendant's attorney can cross-examine your witnesses. When your attorney is done presenting their arguments, it's the defense's turn to present. Once the attorneys present closing arguments, the jury will deliberate over whether the defendant was liable for damages, what the amount of liability is, and the amount of damages.
It's important to note that the attorneys can reach a settlement and request for the court to dismiss the case at any time before the verdict is reached.
Frequently Asked Questions About Civil Lawsuits and Depositions
If you've been injured in an accident, contact an attorney immediately. Justin Weinstein is an auto accident lawyer in Fort Lauderdale with an unparalleled record of success. Contact him immediately for personal injury representation.
What Can an Attorney Ask Me in a Deposition?
The courts give lawyers a great deal of deference when it comes to questioning subjects in a deposition. They can ask you about any information that might affect the case's outcome, including your medical history, employment history, involvement in other lawsuits, etc. If you are asked a question that doesn't relate to your case, ask to take a break and confer with your personal injury lawyer.
Can I Refuse to Go to a Deposition?
If you received a subpoena, you're required to go. Otherwise, you can be held in contempt of court. If you're the plaintiff in the case, refusing to go to a deposition can delay your case and adversely affect the outcome. A better strategy is to prepare yourself to go or request a different date.
Can I Be “Forced” to Answer a Question?
If you don't want to answer a question and your lawyer tells you that you're not required to, you can request that the courts certify the question. The courts will then determine whether or not you have to answer the question.
Plaintiffs' Lawyer for Palm Beach and Broward County
For years, attorney Justin Weinstein has negotiated sizeable settlements for accident victims around Florida. Mr. Weinstein works on a contingency basis, so you never have to pay out of pocket for top-tier legal advice. Call today for immediate legal representation. All consultations are free.