You sometimes need to file a lawsuit in your personal injury case when you cannot reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company. The most critical part of your court case is discovery. Before discovery, you have your evidence, but you do not have access to the evidence in the defendant’s hands.
Each party can gather information in the other’s possession during discovery. They make requests, whether to answer factual questions or to turn over physical documents. Your Denver personal injury attorney can build your case through the discovery process, filling in some of the gaps in your case. If your lawyer can compile a strong case, it increases your leverage in settlement negotiations.
Depositions are a critical party of discovery a chance to tell your story under oath. Your lawyer will prepare you for your testimony and let you know if your deposition went well.
The Deposition Is Both Vital and Difficult
In the deposition, your attorney will produce a list of the other party’s witnesses that they can question under oath. The other party’s attorney has the same right.
Depositions can last up to seven hours (allowing for some breaks). A strong deposition can put you in a better legal position. If you do not put up a good showing, it can weaken your case.
Opposing Counsel Wants to Hear From You to Learn the Facts and Get You on the Record
A deposition gains knowledge that the attorney can use in presenting their case at trial. The attorneys cannot admit the deposition transcript at trial, but may ask you questions at trial based on what they learned in the deposition.
The deposition helps an attorney prepare for trial. There is another purpose – a deposition also helps lock down your trial testimony. If your testimony at trial varies with what you said at your deposition, opposing counsel will damage your credibility in the eyes of the jury. This is the last thing you want when trying to meet your burden of proof in court.
What Happens in Depositions?
Before the deposition, you will go under oath. Generally, three people will be in the room besides you: your lawyer, opposing counsel, and a court reporter.
In a deposition, opposing counsel may not play gotcha. Instead, they will ask you many questions about different topics. They may show you evidence and exhibits and ask about your memory of them. They want to know about the events surrounding the accident from your perspective. They ask what you saw and experienced. Opposing counsel will ask you questions for up to seven hours.
Topics That You Might Address in a Deposition
Opposing counsel may ask you many questions in rapid-fire order during your deposition.
They may ask questions about:
- The leadup to the accident that injured you
- What happened during the accident itself
- What you did in the immediate aftermath of the accident
- Your medical history and situation
- The care that you sought after the accident
Opposing counsel wants to learn if you have relevant evidence they should know about the accident. They also want to learn more about your damages and accident injuries. If you can successfully prove your case, the jury will consider damages. Opposing counsel wants to see if you are as injured as you say and if they can dispute your damages.
Opposing Counsel’s Questions Could Give You a Clue About How You Have Done
Much depends on what you see from the opposing counsel. Some may have a poker face, which keeps you from learning what they think.
You can also tell from the questioning how the deposition is going. If the attorney asks many follow-up questions, they may have zeroed in on an area where they want to focus and learn more. If they ask a few questions and move from topic to topic, they may not feel the need to drill down further. The more clarification they want, the more they may take issue with what you said. You can tell from the tone and tenor of the questions whether they find you credible.
Your Attorney May Need to Step in if Things Are Not Going Well
Also, you can tell if things are going well based on your attorney’s conduct during the deposition. Your lawyer also participates in the deposition. They can object to improper questions. Your attorney should not do this too often because the judge can get involved in your case. However, if your attorney needs to speak often, they may see problems with how the deposition is going.
In addition, your attorney can ask you questions after opposing counsel has finished with theirs. Your attorney may ask these questions to allow you to get something on the record that needs to be there. For example, if opposing counsel elicits damaging facts, your attorney may ask you questions to clean up what you previously said. If your attorney questions you at length and about multiple topics, it can signal a problem.
You may not know right off the bat how your deposition went. The insurance company’s lawyer is combing through your answer to learn more about the strength of your case. They may have probed to see if there are any weaknesses that they can exploit. They certainly will not tell you on the spot how you did.
If you answered all the questions truthfully, and you feel like you did the best you could, the deposition went well from your perspective. In reality, those are the only things that you really can do.
Your attorney will have some feedback for you. They are also reviewing the transcript of the testimony to see what opposing counsel managed to learn. Your attorney should know in relatively short order whether any damaging evidence came out during the deposition. They must factor in what opposing counsel learned and adjust your case strategy for settlement negotiations and the actual trial.
A Strong Deposition May Lead to a Good Settlement Offer
A deposition will likely affect the settlement negotiations. When the insurance company makes its next settlement offer, it gives you a sense of how the deposition went. If your evidence of your accident and case are strong, insurers will get more serious about settling your case after the discovery process closes. If they know if you have a compelling case that will succeed at trial, they want to resolve the matter out of court whenever possible.
On the other hand, discovery might increase the insurance company’s confidence in its defense. They might continue to make inadequate offers, which your lawyer advises you to reject. You do not have to accept an offer at this point that does not cover your losses. You should never go through the litigation process only to accept less than you deserve.
If the insurance company insists on taking the case to trial, it can mean:
- You are so far apart on settlement numbers that you will never reach an agreement.
- They think that they can win the case at trial, keeping them from having to pay anything.
The insurance company may come to the latter conclusion if the attorney reviews the record and does not find your testimony believable or finds inconsistencies. A strong deposition can undoubtedly help your legal case, but a bad deposition does not automatically mean the end of the line for your chances of financial compensation. This emphasizes the importance of thorough preparation for a deposition with a skilled injury attorney.
There is always a chance the insurance company can successfully defend against your lawsuit at trial.
An insurer can prevail if:
- The jury finds the policyholder was not liable for your accident
- The jury awards less compensation than you believe you deserve
On the other hand, the insurance company can also lose at trial. The jury can find in your favor and award you much more than a settlement offer. If the insurance company knows you can likely meet your burden of proof, they will do everything possible to keep your case from reaching the jury.
A favorable deposition can signal to the insurer that you have a strong case for the courtroom. Due to their experience, your lawyer should anticipate the types of questions a defense attorney will ask in a deposition. They should prepare you and practice the Q&A with you before the deposition happens. You never want to risk a deposition that puts you in a weaker position, and the right lawyer can avoid this.
You Need an Attorney, Especially if Your Personal Injury Case Involves Discovery
Depositions and the discovery process are major reasons you need an attorney for your personal injury case. The insurance company will not take your claim seriously without a lawyer, as they expect you cannot litigate a case effectively alone. Only when you hire an experienced Denver personal injury lawyer will the insurance company sit up and take notice.
If you don’t hire an attorney and the insurance company makes you a low settlement offer, you may not have the leverage to ask for more during negotiations. If they deny your claim, they know it is the end of the line because there is nothing you can do about it.
Never wait to hire an attorney for your case. If you approach the insurance company without a lawyer, you may have presented an ineffective claim that makes you lose credibility. An attorney should prepare the claim on your behalf and send it to the insurance company. When you hire an attorney at the beginning of your case, the insurance company knows that you mean business and that they can get away with less.
Hiring a lawyer does not cost you any money out of your pocket. Of course, a personal injury lawyer is not working for free (although they do if you do not win or settle your case). You only pay them once you receive money for your case. Your lawyer will not send you bills. If you receive a settlement or a jury award, your attorney will receive from the proceeds. Thus, you have little risk when you hire a top-rated personal injury law firm’s lawyer in Denver.