Injuries happen every single day for multiple reasons. For example, in one recent year, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported over 2.2 million individuals suffered injuries in car accidents.
Suffering injuries is often inevitable. But if someone else was the cause of your accident and resulting injuries, you may have legal options. A personal injury attorney can review the details of your incident to determine where you have a valid claim for personal injury.
When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you can expect a long process full of many stages and steps on the way to resolution. One essential part of a case is discovery, where attorneys take several depositions to collect detailed information.
Continue reading to understand what depositions entail and how they can help your case.
The Typical Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
To better understand what happens after depositions, it’s helpful to get a bigger picture and comprehend the whole personal injury lawsuit process to give you a better idea of what you can expect.
Initiating the Lawsuit
The first step you’ll take is consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case. Your lawyer will ask questions and gather as much information as possible to create a legal strategy.
Depending on your situation, your attorney may begin by sending the opposing party’s insurance company a demand letter.
A demand letter provides details regarding:
- Your accident
- The insured’s liability
- The extent and severity of your injuries
- Your losses
Your lawyer will calculate your losses and include them in the letter for the insurance company to consider.
After receiving the letter, the insurance company can then either:
- Respond to the letter agreeing to the settlement amount provided
- Respond to the letter denying the allegations and settlement amount
- Not respond at all
In some cases, your lawyer will forgo sending any letter and go straight to filing your personal injury lawsuit.
To initiate the lawsuit, your attorney will draft a complaint to file with the court. The complaint includes information regarding your accident, injuries, and resulting losses. It also consists of a prayer for relief, detailing the compensation you seek.
After filing the complaint and required documentation, your lawyer will serve the opposing party. Service of process provides the defendant with formal notification of the lawsuit.
After receiving service, the opposing side must file their response with the court. The answer often contests the claims in the complaint.
After the defendant files a response, the lawsuit can proceed.
The Discovery Phase
The discovery process allows both sides to dig up evidence and information that can potentially help their arguments.
Attorneys will collect information through interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admissions. Additionally, attorneys will conduct depositions.
This phase is the most time-consuming, as it can take quite some time for both the plaintiff and defendant to get everything they need to build their case.
Pre-Trial Settlement Negotiations
After the discovery process, your personal injury lawyer will engage in settlement negotiations with the opposing party and their insurance company representatives.
Defendants are most likely to settle during this phase because they know much more about the case and have acquired all the necessary information. About 95 percent of personal injury cases in the United States settle before trial.
While not common, if the opposing party refuses to settle, it’s because they feel they have a good chance of winning at trial or the plaintiff’s settlement figure is too high.
Most personal injury attorneys can resolve cases and get their clients the settlements they deserve after the discovery process.
If settling with the opposing party is impossible, your attorney will continue pursuing compensation in the courtroom.
During the trial, the judge (and sometimes a jury) will hear both sides’ arguments, evidence, and testimony. The judge or jury must then decide if you’re eligible to receive any compensation.
While going to trial can be risky, if your personal injury attorney decides it is the best course of action, you can fully trust their decision.
Many people want to avoid a trial, as it can be even more time-consuming, stressful, and costly for both sides. However, some injury victims must go to court to obtain what they deserve.
What is a Deposition?
A deposition may seem like a foreign concept for those unfamiliar with legal procedures. But depositions can play an integral role in a personal injury lawsuit.
A deposition is a declaration made out of court made under oath. During a deposition, the person deposed, referred to as the deponent, appears before the attorneys in the case and a court reporter to give sworn testimony.
A lawyer in the case will want to depose someone with specific knowledge of the claim or some important detail of the case. If the attorney wishes to depose someone, they’ll need to serve the individual with a subpoena.
An individual formally receives a subpoena through a process server. The document contains details regarding the date, time, and place of the deposition and the case in question. Additionally, the subpoena will command the individual’s attendance—depositions are not optional.
What Happens During a Deposition?
During the deposition, the parties will meet at a specified location on a specific date and time. For example, the deposition may occur at the defense attorney’s office.
The lawyer that requested the deposition will ask the deponent various questions. The types of questions depend on who the individual is and what information the attorney is seeking.
Deponents can include:
- The parties to the case
- Treating physicians
- Witnesses to the incident
- Expert witnesses
- Family and friends
There is usually no set time to take a deposition. Depositions can last anywhere from an hour to an entire day. The amount of time it takes typically depends on the number of questions.
How are Depositions Helpful?
Depending on the situation, depositions can be extremely helpful for your case.
They serve many purposes, including:
- Getting more information about the case
- Finding out what a party knows about the accident or incident
- Establishing the cause of the accident
- Determining who’s liable for your injuries
- Creating a solid record to be used later on in court
- Getting an idea of how a witness will testify in court
- Determining how credible a witness is
- Getting specialized information from an expert witness
Attorneys always have a reason to depose an individual. Depositions can provide valuable insight and critical information.
What Happens After Depositions?
Your personal injury attorney may need to take multiple depositions of various witnesses before they’ve officially concluded the discovery phase of your case.
After each deposition, your lawyer will likely want to review the questions and answers. The court reporter, who takes down everything said throughout the entire deposition, can provide a written transcript. Your attorney can request either a hard copy or an electronic copy to read.
Your lawyer will take whatever helpful information they need from the transcript to help strengthen your case. These details can then help them when it comes time to engage in settlement negotiations or prepare for trial.
Depositions are an essential part of the discovery phase—you can expect both sides to take advantage of this. Your attorney will create a strategy to take depositions and extract whatever pertinent facts they need to pursue fair compensation for your case.
Can Lawyers Depose an Individual More than Once?
An individual can be deposed more than once. However, more than one deposition for a single individual is not typical.
Usually, if new facts arise, an attorney may need to re-depose an individual. In some cases, a judge can also order a deposition.
Generally, attorneys try to only depose individuals only once unless there is a valid reason to request a subsequent deposition.
Does the Deponent Need an Attorney?
Whether the deponent needs an attorney depends on who the deponent is.
If the deponent is another individual, like a witness to the accident or an expert witness, they do not need to hire an attorney for their deposition. They are not a party to the case and, therefore, do not need legal representation.
If the deponent is a party to the case, their attorney needs to attend the deposition with them. So, for example, if you are undergoing a deposition by the defendant’s attorney, your personal injury attorney will be there with you.
However, if you try to handle your claim unrepresented and you have a deposition with the opposing party, you will attend on your own without a lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers are all-around beneficial to have for your case, but especially when it comes to depositions. Not only will they protect your rights and best interests during your deposition, but they’ll also schedule their depositions to gather pertinent information for your case.
Do I Need an Attorney to Handle My Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Many people wonder whether they need a lawyer, and they might even try to start their case without legal guidance. However, in most cases, a lawyer can help you achieve a much better result than you’d get handling your own case. This is especially the case if you need to file a lawsuit, which requires following strict and complicated Rules of Civil Procedure.
A personal injury attorney knows the law and procedures for your case. They have the experience and resources needed to build a strong case and work toward getting you the financial recovery you need.
When you hire a lawyer, you’re no longer responsible for the major tasks associated with your case.
Your attorney will:
- Thoroughly investigate your claim
- Draft and file necessary court documents
- Gather relevant evidence and documentation
- Uncover the cause of your injuries
- Determine liability
- Calculate your damages
- Participate in the discovery process
- Engage in settlement negotiations
- Represent you in court
When you try to represent yourself, you risk having a tough time communicating and dealing with the opposing party’s insurance company. Insurance companies can sense when an individual has little knowledge of the personal injury process and take advantage of the situation, usually resulting in an unfair settlement.
You only have one opportunity to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses. Having a personal injury lawyer handling your case gives you the best possible chance of getting a fair outcome in your case.
Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you’ve suffered an injury caused by another person, you may have legal options. Put yourself in the most favorable position by discussing your case with a skilled personal injury attorney.
Your lawyer can help protect your rights and seek maximum compensation on your behalf while you focus entirely on your physical recovery.