Who Can Be Deposed After a Car Accident?

Depositions are very common when car accident claims are filed. Most claims are handled through the negotiation process when fault is not an issue and the insurance company knows they will be required to pay some level of benefits. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes the respondent insurance company will want the case heard in court when they think they have a reasonably solid argument that could result in having the claim dismissed. While the deposition process does not require the claimant to have an attorney, the best decision is nearly always consulting with a car accident attorney who can evaluate the case and make a recommendation, including whether they will take the case.

The Deposition Process

Depositions are one of the areas an attorney can help the most. The legal counselors for each side in a car accident dispute can call any litigant to a deposition, including the expert witnesses each side plans to use. These witnesses will usually be questioned by both the plaintiff and defense lawyers in attempt to solidify a case or an alternative argument. Witnesses are normally any of the following:

  1. Medical professionals.
  2. Accident reconstruction specialists.
  3. Any other witnesses who are willing to testify.

Understanding the Purpose of a Deposition

A deposition is essentially the same legal proceeding as being called to the stand to testify in any other hearing. The difference is that the deposition is recorded so both the defense attorney and the Personal Injury Lawyer Bloomington IL trusts can evaluate the answers during and after the proceeding.

Plaintiffs can expect to be called for a deposition by the defending attorney and may be questioned about a wide range of issues concerning the accident. Common questions that are asked include:

  1. Personal information such as the plaintiff’s name and age, along with a personal residence address.
  2. Years of driving experience and employment.
  3. Place of employment.
  4. Were they on duty when the accident occurred? This information can be important because the employer could also be included in the claim or suit.

The Open Hearing

Though the primary parties in a car accident may be deposed prior to a hearing, they may also be called to the stand to testify in open court. This is often why the parties were deposed initially. Similar questions will be asked, but they may be worded differently. This is done purposely in an effort to catch either the plaintiff or the defendant, or any other witnesses who respond with conflicting information. Attorneys may request testimony be removed from the record which can have a major impact on the case. This is especially true if information presented by an expert medical witness conflicts with another’s testimony.

Calling witnesses to assist your case can be instrumental in winning your case, but witnesses cannot normally be compelled to testify in either a deposition or an open hearing. Each case is different and it is up to each attorney to make a judgement call on what is the best strategy for their client.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Pioletti & Pioletti for their insight into depositions during car accident cases.

5 Important Things To Consider Before Taking a Deposition

In most civil cases, depositions play an important role. For many people, the thought of taking a deposition can cause stress and anxiety. Luckily, there are simple tips and strategies that you can use to make the deposition process go smoothly.

  • While preparing for the deposition, try to be relaxed.
  • If you can avoid thinking too much, you may be less distracted which can make the deposition process easier.

Here are some additional things to consider before taking a deposition:

1. The Basics

Once a lawsuit has been filed, the other attorney has the right to find out how much information you know about the case in the form of a deposition. A deposition is simply a question and answer session with the attorney who is representing the interests of the other party. Any facts, recollections, and impressions of relevant parties collected in depositions can be very important to the case.

  • A skilled personal injury lawyer Milwaukee WI relies on will be present during the deposition as well to offer you support.
  • The other attorney will ask you questions, and you will answer them to the best of your ability.
  • A court reporter will also be present at the deposition to make a record of everything that is said. In certain cases, the deposition may be videotaped.

2. Kinds of Questions That May Be Asked

  • The attorney will likely ask questions about your background, so you should expect general questions concerning your age, occupation and education.
  • After the general questions, you will be asked about additional information pertaining to the actual case.
  • If you do not understand a question, you should request the attorney to clarify.
  • Once the deposition has started, you cannot consult with your attorney. The role of your attorney is to protect you from any inappropriate questions. If your attorney objects to a question, do not answer it. Since there isn’t a judge present at the deposition, your attorney may temporarily object and then allow you to answer.
  • If you need a break at any point, do not hesitate to ask for one.

3. Keep Your Answers Short

Remember that a deposition is not a conversation. Take some time and think about each question before you answer.

  • Do not get so comfortable that the attorney can lead you to say something that you do not want to say or imply.
  • Take control of the deposition by staying in charge of the pacing. If her or she is going too fast, slow your answers.
  • If you feel that your answer to a question is incomplete, you can ask to explain it in further detail to minimize the risk of misinterpretation. However, if your answer is longer than a sentence, you are likely giving away too much information.

4. Do Not Neglect the Basics

Make sure you receive a good night’s sleep before taking the deposition. You should eat some food and drink water beforehand so that you have energy and are not likely to be dehydrated or feeling poorly. This can also lessen the effects of stress from the deposition.

5. Look at All Records or Reports

For any questions where the attorney is referring to a record or a report, you need to ask to see the report so that you can verify their information. If you don’t recall the report or record that they are talking about, tell the attorney that you do not remember. For every question, answer to the best of your ability and recollection and be truthful.

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Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim, S.C. for their insight into best depositions practices.

Deposition Rules Do Apply

As a skilled personal injury lawyer Little Rock AR trusts , we should always recall that the deposition play a key role in building your case for trial.  This is not merely a fact-finding tool.  By the time a deposition is to be taken, you should be able to ascertain the defense’s position on most issues through responsive pleadings and written discovery.  Now is the time to prove important facts, obtain admissions, and narrow the disputed facts to help set up your client for trial.

Notice of Deposition

Ensure that your notice is compliant with the rules in your jurisdiction, and that it is properly filed and served.  As has been established in previous blog articles, all depositions should be videotaped.  If what you want to get out of a deposition is not worth the cost of videotaping it, then the deposition isn’t worth taking.  Make sure that you properly state in the notice that the deposition will be videotaped.

Rules do apply

If you are defending a deposition, make your objections concisely and in a non-argumentative and non-suggestive manner. Cite the rule or objection for the record and don’t make a speaking objection.  Only instruct your client not to answer 1) to preserve a privilege, 2) to enforce a court imposed limitation, or 3) to present a bad faith motion.

If your opposing counsel isn’t playing by these rules, point out to opposing counsel the fact that these objections are improper. If they continue, cite the rule or case law that supports your position, attach it to the deposition and make an official record of what rules your opponent is violating. If they still persist, you may have to contact the court for a telephone ruling on the record.

Depositions outlines: One question, one fact

In order to avoid objections to vagueness, ambiguity, or compound questions, keep the questions on your deposition outline simple. One question should deal with one fact. Try to keep the question to only take up one line on our outline as well. If questions start getting too long or complex, it can be difficult for the witness to understand and make it hard on you to achieve your goals.  Make sure that each major goal in your deposition has its own heading in your deposition outline, and that the questions within that goal help assist you in obtaining the information you need.

Depositions can be one of the most valuable discovery tools in preparing and building your case for trial.  For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran trial lawyer to properly prepare for trial.

The power of a videotaped deposition cannot be overstated

One of the most underused strategies in the personal injury practice is the videotaped deposition.  As you know, gestures, tone, and idiosyncrasies do not translate on a written deposition transcript.  These are many times far more powerful than spoken words, and it’s time you begin videotaping your deposition.

Your Notice of Deposition

Before you send out the Notice of Deposition, check the rules in your jurisdiction regarding the taking of video depositions.  Many states have a requirement that a particular oath or procedure must be taken for the video deposition to be valid.  Other jurisdictions allow for you to merely video it yourself.  You should take on any objections to the video recording before the date of the deposition, and the way to avoid disputes on the day of the deposition is to clearly outline your intentions in the notice.

Prevents them from being coached between the deposition and trial

The problem with not videotaping a deposition is that any bad answers, bad gestures, negative tones, condescension, etc, can be coached out of the Defendant after his or her lawyer sees how awful they performed in an attempt to prepare them to look better in front of the jury.  If you fail to videotape the Defendant’s deposition, you just failed to capture that valuable evidence to put in front of the jury.

Use clips in your opening statement

You have to remember that as Little Rock personal injury lawyers, jurors are automatically skeptical of us.  People are skeptical of lawyers from the years of jokes, stella awards, chain emails, etc.  Much of it is deserved, but you are keenly aware that building credibility in a short trial can be difficult, if not impossible. In order to avoid concerns about credibility, use part of your opening statement not telling the jury what the Defendant said at deposition – show them.  Play short clips from the deposition in your opening statement.  Be careful not to take clips out of context or try to trick the jury in any way – that will backfire.  But strategically showing bombshell clips in opening statement will get you off on the right foot with the jury.

Even if you cannot use them in your opening statement or even at trial because of local rule or statute, use it at mediation.  Send clips to the adjuster.  These clips can help you settle the case.

For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in personal injury claims to juries for years.

3 Reasons to Video a Deposition

Legal professionals and our clients alike can greatly benefit from the use of video depositions. The increasing capabilities of video technology has made its use in legal proceedings very common in recent years. There are many reasons for this. Below are some of the biggest reasons why we use video depositions whenever possible.

How Can a Recorded Deposition Strengthen a Case?

  • It can more effectively convey information via body language. This is important as it can allow the jury and judge alike to judge the witness’s authenticity. The written word is not always enough to accurately convey critical information. At times it can be impossible to gain the same understanding of situational intent when referring only to text. Suspects or witnesses may say one thing but their body language may tell the real story. Fidgeting, lack of eye contact, and other similar behavior can raise suspicion or cast doubt on a witness’s testimony. Statements are often far more persuasive to all parties involved when the words are accompanied by a visual representation.
  • A video recording can allow a witness to provide testimony when they might not otherwise be able to do so. It’s not uncommon for witnesses to agree to provide a deposition in person, but it becomes difficult or even impossible. Perhaps the witness has a family emergency, a personal medical situation, or cannot take time off from work. Nearly every city in the U.S. has court reporting services that provide rooms and equipment for video depositions. A witness doesn’t even need to be in the same city as our legal firm in order to participate in a deposition. This also makes it easier to scheduling it around their needs.
  • It documents the initial testimony of a witness. Should a witness change their testimony on the stand, the video deposition can be referred to in subsequent questioning. It can also be used by an auto accident lawyer Memphis TN trusts to determine how the witness may appear in front of a jury, and whether or not they will want to call that person to the stand.

The Benefits of Video Depositions

Recorded footage of a witness’s testimony can be a powerful tool. Providing a visual presentation of that witness to the jury and judge can be invaluable. Witnesses who are crucial to the case but cannot be there in person for the deposition can still provide testimony. Video depositions will continue to grow in popularity and for many good reasons.

WBThanks to our friends and contributors from Wiseman Bray PLLC for their insight into video depositions.