If you’ve already begun preparing for your deposition, it means you’ve moved well beyond the initial car accident uncertainty. You or your legal representative has dealt with the negligent driver who injured you. You’ve interacted and perhaps negotiated with insurance companies and their legal representatives. If attorneys have scheduled your deposition, it also means that you’ve filed a lawsuit. At this point, your case has entered the litigation phase.
Your deposition constitutes just one part of the litigation process. From this point forward, nearly everything that happens with your accident case will take on a more formal tone. Of course, you want to know what happens next. Read on for more information.
A deposition constitutes a formal version of the statement you probably gave to one or more insurance investigators not long after your accident. Your deposition allows the defendant’s attorney to ask you many of those same questions and more.
In setting up and taking your deposition, attorneys must follow Virginia laws regarding evidence. These codes establish deposition and witness qualification guidelines. The law also explains that when an attorney wants to depose you, he or she must give you timely notice about the location and time.
In most situations, depositions must take place in the county where you filed your lawsuit.
- To ensure your attendance, the defendant’s attorney may send you a subpoena.
- Your deposition constitutes one part of a court process, so you must speak truthfully during the entire duration of your deposition.
- A court reporter documents every word of your testimony.
- Deposition rules also allow phone, video, or teleconferenced testimony with a court official present.
- Just as in a court process, your attorney has the right to object to any question that he or she deems inappropriate.
Defense Attorneys and Insurers Gain New Insight From Your Deposition
A defense attorney usually requests a transcript and/or a video of your testimony to further evaluate you and your injury claim. In preparing to question you, the at-fault party’s attorney will have already reviewed and evaluated your accident version many times.
Your deposition provides several additional evaluation opportunities beyond what your attorney’s documents provide.
- Your deposition allows the defense attorney to see you in person.
- As you respond, your attorney will see if and how your injuries affect you during ordinary circumstances.
- The defense attorney chooses his questions carefully and listens to every detail of your response.
- The defense attorney evaluates you as a witness and measures how you might perform in a courtroom.
- The defense attorney looks for differences and inconsistencies in your story and often hears previously unrevealed information.
- The defense attorney has a chance to see how much you remember about the accident without your attorney filtering your responses.
Defendants Look For New Information
By the time a defense attorney hears your sworn testimony, he or she will have reviewed the liability insurer’s complete investigative file. Your deposition might provide a missing piece of the liability/injury puzzle, but it also might not.
During its initial investigation, the at-fault insurance company will obtain police reports, medical reports, witness statements, employment information, and other critical data. Some tech-savvy insurers hire social media investigators to review your social media posts. If your case involves severe injuries and a potential high-dollar judgment, investigators perform in-depth investigations. This often includes an activities check, a credit check, or a video of your activities outside your home.
The Insurance Company May Change Its Defense Strategy
The defense attorney who requests your deposition needs your testimony to defend the driver who caused your injuries. The defense attorney will also work with the responsible party’s liability insurance company. In handling an accident suit, defense attorneys negotiate, settle, or defend the case on the other driver’s behalf. They usually conduct defense or settlement efforts according to the insurer’s authority and instructions.
When a liability insurer first receives an accident claim, the insurer will conduct an independent investigation. After the insurer evaluates the issues, it will decide on its settlement position based on the defendant’s ultimate chances of winning or losing in court.
Once you file a lawsuit, the defense attorney often follows the liability insurer’s original strategy.
- Take a tough defense stance and refuse to make an offer.
- Offer you a low settlement that doesn’t reflect the true value of your claim.
- Move toward trial because the defense attorney believes that he or she can defeat your claim in court.
If the defendant’s insurer chose not to settle with you before you filed your suit, your deposition has the potential to change strategy. A deposition almost always gives a defense attorney a fresh take on existing facts. The attorney will use what he or she learns to reassess your case and decide if it should affect the settlement position.
Defendants Sometimes Resume Settlement Negotiations
Litigation changes the tone of an accident case. When you file your lawsuit, it often eliminates the urgency to settle. You will no longer feel rushed to beat the statute of limitations. When the suit becomes a reality it motivates plaintiffs and defendants to resolve their differences. These changes cool things down a bit, but if the parties really want to settle, a lawsuit doesn’t eliminate that motivation.
Once a case goes on the docket, it falls in line with other pending cases. Courts don’t have the time and resources to try them all, so judges push for discovery and/or settlement.
Virginia courts set a timeline to complete discovery. As a plaintiff, your deposition constitutes just one item on the attorney’s agenda. To move your case forward, both sides will incur the costs of witness depositions, expert testimony, document production, and more. The potential for additional costs and fees often motivates both sides to get back to the negotiation table.
Virginia courts strongly encourage disputing parties to continue negotiations after filing a lawsuit.
Some Virginia courts have a Dispute Resolution Coordinator who helps administer Alternative Dispute Resolution programs.
- Mediation: This constitutes a type of facilitated negotiation. Plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, and insurance companies meet to discuss their positions. The mediator works with both parties, together and separately. The mediator encourages the parties to share information and move toward settlement.
- Judicial Settlement Conferences: This process uses mediation strategies and judicial settlement techniques to resolve pending cases.
- Discovery Conciliation: This involves a limited program designed to speed up the discovery process and reduce the associated costs.
- Neutral Case Evaluation Program: A limited program where senior attorneys and judges volunteer to evaluate cases and attempt settlement before trial. The volunteer schedules a settlement conference with plaintiffs and attorneys. Parties must have settlement authority and arrive prepared to negotiate.
Even though you have a pending lawsuit, it does nothing to prevent the attorneys from settling your case outside of the court’s ADR programs. Once a defendant has had the opportunity to evaluate you during a deposition, it paves the way for independent negotiation.
Do You Need An Attorney to Handle Your Car Accident Claim?
When you retain a car accident attorney, you can focus your efforts on healing while your attorney deals with the legal details of your claim. Resolving an auto accident claim often proves complicated and stressful. An attorney minimizes the complications by acting on your behalf.
Most accident attorneys offer free case evaluations to prospective clients. This gives you a chance to learn more about the injury claim process without making an immediate commitment.