During the deposition in a personal injury claim, you have an opportunity to share your suffering. You may answer questions about your accident, or give more information about how your injuries have impacted other areas of your life. For many victims, the deposition serves as a crucial milestone: They have finished their biggest, and often most challenging, part in the process.
But, what happens after the deposition? Below, we’ll explore the common path a personal injury case follows after a deposition.
1. The court reporter will provide a written transcript of the deposition.
During your deposition, the court reporter will record everything said throughout the process: the questions asked, how you replied, and any other interactions within the court environment. During the deposition itself, the court reporter will create a record by using a recording device or by taking notes in shorthand. After the deposition, the court reporter will sit down with that shorthand report and create a verbatim report that includes the exact language used throughout the deposition. The report serves as vital evidence that can help establish exactly what you said or didn’t say about your accident.
It can take some time to receive the transcript from the deposition. Waiting on the transcript can leave both you and your attorney waiting to see what comes next.
2. Your attorney and the liable party’s attorneys will have a chance to review the deposition.
Once your attorney receives the transcript of the deposition, both sides will have a chance to carefully review everything said during the deposition. Your attorney will probably sit down with you and review it carefully. In some cases, you may notice inaccuracies: inaccurate facts pointed out either during your testimony or during the other party’s, or a place where you mistakenly misspoke. If you notice any errors in the deposition, you should bring them up with your attorney as soon as possible.
While reviewing the deposition, the attorney will also consider several other key factors:
Inconsistencies or Inaccuracies in the Other Party’s Testimony.
Inconsistencies could indicate a problem with the testimony or could prove that the other party attempted to lie under oath. Your attorney will look for any inconsistencies or inaccurate information in the testimony to make it easier to correct the record.
For example, if you suffered injuries in an auto accident with a truck driver, the truck driver might claim that he drove less than the federally limited 11 hours out of his14-hour shift. A review of his logbook, on the other hand, might show that the truck driver was well into hour twelve or thirteen of his trip. Your attorney does not want that inaccurate information to get included as the insurance company or the judge considers your settlement, since it could change the amount you ultimately receive in compensation for your injuries.
Whether Your Case Needs Another Witness.
Sometimes, the information presented during the deposition may show your attorney that you need to interview another witness to get a full, accurate picture of what took place during your accident. In some cases, you may need to bring in an expert witness to dispute information presented as fact by the opposing side. You might need to call a witness who had a better view of what happened.
You may need someone to testify to specific information that, as it came out, the witnesses you originally called did not see. If your attorney needs to call another witness, it may result in another deposition.
Any Admissions of Guilt on the Part of the Other Party.
An admission of guilt on the part of the other party in your personal injury claim may help prove your claim and make it easier for you to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. In an auto accident, for example, the attorney may see if the other driver admits to driving while distracted or to breaking the rules of the road, which could serve as evidence of guilt. Your attorney will also review the deposition to make sure he has accurately identified all parties who may share fault in the accident.
As your attorney reviews the deposition, it will give him a better idea of what you can expect from your claim. After the deposition, your attorney may give you a better idea of how much compensation you should expect and how much you should negotiate as you navigate your personal injury claim.
3. Independent Medical Exams, If Needed
In some cases, the other side in your claim may request an independent medical examination. During this exam, a doctor other than the one you have been seeing throughout your recovery will evaluate your physical condition, including the extent of your injuries. The doctor will provide an assessment of how those injuries impact you in each area of your life. The insurance company may then compare this assessment to the one provided by your attorney and your doctors, which may serve as the foundation of your personal injury claim.
During this exam, the doctor may try to trip you up or to find any evidence that your injuries did not occur as you claimed or that they do not limit you the way you initially stated. For example, if you have a traumatic brain injury that has caused you to suffer memory loss or difficulty concentrating, the independent examiner may attempt to prove that you can, in fact, focus on the task at hand, or that you do not have as many holes in your memory as you initially claimed. If you suffered a spinal cord injury, the doctor might attempt to evaluate the extent of your paralysis and determine how it impacts your life.
The doctor may also evaluate how much your injuries limit you and whether you limit yourself during the exam. For example, if you suffered back and neck injuries, it might prohibit some movements. The doctor will watch you to determine whether you avoid those movements due to inability or if you limit yourself instead.
Your attorney will carefully prepare you for this exam. The other side’s goal during this independent exam often includes finding a way to decrease the compensation offered in light of what the exam uncovers about your injuries. You should avoid providing unnecessary information to the doctor conducting this exam. Listen to your attorney’s advice regarding what information you should share during your exam to prevent mistakenly minimizing your compensation for your injuries.
In most personal injury claims, the victim and the insurance company that covers the liable party will go through several rounds of negotiation before arriving at an agreement.
The first round of negotiation may occur shortly after your accident, before the insurance company even has a chance to conduct a full examination. The insurance company may issue you a settlement offer that reflects the funds the insurance company wants to pay out, rather than the funds that you deserve for your injuries. If you accept this settlement offer, it may help you avoid many of the future steps of the claim. You may, however, substantially limit the compensation you receive for your injuries by accepting that offer. Consult an attorney before accepting any settlement offer.
After you decline the first settlement offer issued by the insurance company, your attorney will issue a demand letter that includes the funds you feel you deserve in compensation for your accident, based on your medical expenses and other financial losses related to the accident. The insurance company can then accept your demands or issue another offer of its own.
During each round of negotiation, you have the opportunity to either accept a settlement offer or decline it and move forward. If at any point you and the insurance company reach an agreement on the amount you deserve, you can accept the offer and begin the resolution of your claim. Throughout the negotiation process, your attorney may continue to investigate the accident, looking for more information that can help prove your claim and increase the compensation you can receive for your injuries.
You went through multiple rounds of negotiation, but you and the liable party or that party’s insurance company simply could not come to an agreement about the funds you deserve. What happens next?
If you cannot reach an agreement with the insurance company on your own, you will sit down for a mediation session. During a mediation session, you and your attorney will sit down with the insurance company and/or its representatives and a mediator, who will attempt to help you come to a resolution. Generally, you will use a judge or former judge as a mediator. The mediator has a solid understanding of personal injury law and will help both you and the liable party understand your rights and what decision the court will likely reach in your case.
During mediation, both sides will have the opportunity to lay out all of their evidence. Your attorney may call on you to speak about your accident and the limitations it left you with, or you may simply allow your attorney to speak for you. You will create a plan of action with your attorney before going in for a mediation session, so you will know exactly what to expect during the session.
The mediator will often make a recommendation for the steps you should take. The mediator may recommend a fair settlement offer and see if you and the liable party accept. He cannot, however, force you to accept a compromise. At the end of mediation, you can either reach an agreement or decide to take your claim to trial.
If you cannot reach an agreement through negotiation or mediation, your attorney may recommend taking your claim to trial. Most personal injury claims settle out of court. Most of the time, going to trial means expensive legal fees on top of the other fees that the liable party or that party’s insurance company must already worry about. As a result, insurance companies generally try to avoid going to trial if they can.
That does not necessarily mean, however, that your claim will not go to trial. Working with an attorney from the beginning can make it easier to proceed to trial, since the attorney will already have a thorough understanding of your claim and your desires.
At the trial, as in mediation, both sides will have the chance to lay out their cases and arguments. Your attorney will present any evidence about who caused the accident and the extent of your injuries. You may need to present evidence of your limitations or show the extent of your medical expenses. The other side will present its evidence: any evidence, for example, that you caused the accident, or that you did not suffer as many limitations as you claim from your accident.
Once both sides have presented evidence, the court will make a ruling in your claim. Both parties and the insurance company must then adhere to this legally binding verdict.
Once you either reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company or the court renders a verdict in your claim, you will receive payment for your personal injury claim. The insurance company or liable party typically has 30 days after that agreement to pay out your settlement. If you do not receive your settlement within that time frame, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible, since the insurance company may receive additional fees and penalties due to failure to pay.
Personal injury claims can sustain a time-consuming, complex process. Luckily, you do not have to navigate it on your own. If you suffered serious injuries in an accident due to the negligence of another party, contact a personal injury attorney who can walk with you through the claim process, and ensure that you know what to expect every step of the way.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814