Depositions in car accident cases often prove incredibly stressful. While a deposition allows you to answer questions about your version of events during the car accident, it also allows the defense attorney to grill you and attempt to pick apart your case, your version of events, the extent of your injuries, and your claims about how those injuries impact your life.
After the deposition, you may find your stress levels rising even higher. You likely still have several steps to take during your car accident claim. Having a car accident attorney on your side can help decrease your stress during this very trying time.
During the transcript review, the attorneys for both sides have the opportunity to review deposition transcripts. The review phase offers several important opportunities for your attorney, if you have hired one. Your attorney can:
- Evaluate the strength of your testimony. Do you have a clear memory of the accident, what led to it, and who caused it? Can you clearly show, through both your testimony and the other evidence you have on hand, that the other party caused your accident?
- Evaluate the other party’s testimony. Your attorney will also have a chance to consider the other party’s testimony about the accident. In some cases, the other party may attempt to argue that you caused the accident, even if you clearly did not. In other cases, the liable party may attempt to shift legal liability to another entity. Your attorney can help evaluate the strength of that testimony and determine what will likely happen if your case must go to trial.
- Schedule future depositions, if necessary. Some depositions may reveal the need for further witness statements and depositions. If needed, your attorney can contact other witnesses and arrange for further depositions, seeking more information that may help strengthen your case.
During the review process, the attorneys for both sides generally take the time to develop an idea of how the claim will progress from that point. In many cases, after the deposition, your attorney can provide you with a better idea of how you can expect the claim to proceed. Without an attorney, on the other hand, only the defense attorney will evaluate your deposition.
The Independent Medical Examination
If you suffered serious injuries in your accident, you likely went straight to the emergency room or an urgent care provider. You may have received immediate care in the emergency room, or the emergency room may have called in a specialist to consult on your case. Your doctors, nurses, and therapists likely created a care plan that reflected the full extent of your injuries and the treatment you needed to ensure maximum recovery.
The defense, whether an insurance company that represents the responsible driver or the lawyers who represent a company that contributed to your accident, may want to do an independent review of your medical condition. The defense will choose a doctor, often one specifically employed by the company for this purpose, to conduct an exam. During the exam, you can expect the doctor to try to minimize your injuries or seek out any other cause for your injuries, including past accidents or preexisting conditions.
Working with an attorney can help prepare you for that independent medical examination. Your attorney can advise you about:
- What questions you can expect the physician to ask.
- When you have to answer questions and what information you should keep to yourself during the exam.
- How the doctor may attempt to minimize the extent of your injuries.
- How to demonstrate the full extent of your injuries.
If the doctor hired by the defense can prove your injuries are less severe than your personal doctor claimed, this can reduce the compensation you receive for your injuries. The doctor may also attempt to deem certain treatments or therapies unnecessary, further reducing the responsible entity’s financial liability for your treatment.
You should work closely with your attorney to understand how you can expect this exam to proceed and what you should do to increase your chances of receiving the full compensation you deserve for your medical expenses and your injuries. Your attorney can also help advise you about what materials you may need to take with you to your appointment, including copies of your medical records, X-rays, scans, and statements from your doctor about how your injuries continue to impact your quality of life, if relevant.
If the doctor hired by the defense substantially reduces the impact of your injuries, you may choose to submit your own medical records or even visit another doctor for further evaluation. Insurance companies often select their doctors carefully, and may select a doctor with a history of minimizing personal injuries following a car accident. Others may pay specific doctors with the purpose of having them minimize accident victims’ injuries.
If you disagree with those results, you can submit evidence to the contrary as part of your claim. An attorney can help you understand when you have the right to seek further medical evaluation to give the liable entity, judge, and jury a better idea of the extent of your injuries and how they impact your daily life.
Typically, car accident cases settle out of court. Neither the responsible party nor the victims of the auto accident generally want to take the case to court, where court costs will add to the cost of the accident, unless they cannot reach a settlement. Florida minimum liability insurance only offers $10,000 in protection for each individual injured in an accident and $20,000 in total protection for all individuals injured in that accident. Often, court costs can far exceed that amount.
This does not automatically mean that the claim will not go to court, however. In some cases, especially if there were multiple legally liable parties involved in your accident or if you must deal with a high-dollar claim, including commercial insurance claims or claims against big truck drivers, you may need to take your claim to court to get full compensation for your injuries. Before that happens, however, you will likely move through several stages of negotiation.
Your personal injury demand package. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they will often work with you to put together a personal injury demand package: the amount you expect to receive for your injuries. The package will generally include all expenses related to your injury, including your medical expenses, your lost wages, and a request for compensation for your pain and suffering, if relevant. If you suffered permanent injury as a result of the accident, your claim may also include lost earning potential.
By working closely with an attorney, you can develop a better assessment of exactly what funds you deserve for your injuries, including all of your medical costs: all procedures, therapies, treatment, and modifications to your home to allow you more independence after your accident, if relevant. Many people find that consulting with an attorney can considerably increase the damages they include in their demand packages, since an attorney can help identify any expenses they might have missed.
The other party’s settlement offer. When negotiating with an insurance company that covers a private or commercial driver, or when seeking compensation from a big corporation, you may get a fast settlement offer immediately after the accident. Once you file your demand package, which may include a much higher request for compensation than the insurance company or business initially offered, the other party has an opportunity to come back with a settlement offer.
This offer could:
- Represent the maximum compensation available from the responsible party’s insurance company, especially if your medical and personal expenses related to the accident far exceed the policy maximums;
- Represent a fair offer that takes into consideration your expenses and your pain and suffering following the accident; and/or
- Include a much lower settlement than you asked for in your demand package.
If you work with an attorney, they can advise you about whether they believe it is in your best interests to accept the settlement offer or continue to negotiate. You may go through several rounds of negotiation as you attempt to reach a settlement agreement. When you work with an attorney, they can usually give you a good idea of exactly what funds you really deserve for your injuries and what you should expect from those negotiations. An experienced personal injury attorney may even have direct experience with a specific insurance company or business liable for your accident, which can give you a much better idea of exactly what to expect as you negotiate.
If you accept a settlement at any point, you waive the right to future compensation for your injuries. You will not have the right to file a personal injury claim for the same accident again. An attorney can provide valuable advice at every step of the negotiation, helping you to understand how much compensation you deserve and how accepting a settlement will affect you in the future.
- Mediation. If you cannot reach an agreement with the responsible party, you may move forward to mediation. Often, a retired or current judge will preside over mediation. During the mediation phase, you will have the opportunity to present your evidence and argue your claim. The mediator may offer a potential resolution, hopefully one that will appease both sides. You and the other party will then have the option to accept that offer or reject it. If you sign a settlement offer, as in the earlier stages of the negotiation, your claim ends. Once you sign the offer, the liable party will write you a check, and your claim will be closed.
- Trial. In some cases, you may fail to reach an agreement with the entity liable for paying for your accident even through mediation. Some big corporations or insurance companies, for example, may attempt to drag the process out for as long as possible. Others may attempt to deny the full extent of your injuries, offering you considerably less compensation than you deserve for the pain and suffering you have faced along the way.
If you must take your claim to trial, an attorney provides immeasurable benefit. A personal injury attorney understands the details of your accident and your expenses. They likely helped prepare your demand package and understand all the expenses included in that demand. In the courtroom, your attorney has your best interests in mind. Your attorney can also help prepare you for the trial, letting you know what questions you can expect and how you should handle those questions as they come up.
Ultimately, a trial results in a final decision about the compensation you will receive. The jury will determine exactly who bears legal liability for the car accident and how much compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Once you reach a settlement agreement, the legally responsible party generally has 20 days to deliver payment for your car accident. If the liable party fails to provide payment within 20 days of the settlement agreement, that party may face penalties and fines based on how long it takes to deliver payment. In some cases, including if you accept a settlement offer, the liable party may require you to sign a contract stating that you waive the right to future compensation by accepting that settlement. The 20-day clock often begins when you sign the paperwork, which constitutes your acceptance of that offer.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, having an attorney on your side can make it much easier to handle your personal injury claim, from putting together your demand package to, if needed, taking your claim to trial. Following your car accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney cannot alleviate the impact of your accident, but they may help to reduce your stress during an incredibly trying period, making it easier for you to handle your personal injury claim even if it does need to go to court.
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