After facing a personal injury from an accident due to negligence, you should seek compensation for your losses. Depending on the events leading up to your accident, you may need to file a lawsuit with the help of your attorney.
Personal injury lawsuits involve several steps and stages of preparation before a trial begins. As the case progresses through each step, you may become subject to a deposition. The reality is that a deposition can change the course of a personal injury lawsuit and what happens next in your case. As an accident victim, your personal injury lawyer can prepare you for the deposition and what could occur following the deposition stage in your case.
The Purpose of a Deposition in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Depositions allow each side to learn as much as possible about the party subject to the deposition and the information they can provide to support a case. In a personal injury matter, there are many people that a lawyer could request a deposition for. However, often the most critical deposition in a personal injury-related case is the victim's testimony.
As a personal injury victim seeking damages against an insurance company or other at-fault party, the opposing lawyers will want to hear from you. The deposition offers an opportunity for the lawyers to ask you about anything they may deem relevant to the dispute, which can include background information about your personal life and work, your health, the events leading up to the injury, how the injury transpired, the effects of the injuries on your life and the steps you have taken to recover and heal from your injury.
A deposition is often a source of anxiety for the party subject to the questioning. When a lawyer represents you in a personal injury matter, they can help you by going over expected questions in the deposition and talking about what you can expect as far as standard practice and procedures in a deposition.
Additionally, you have the right as the accident victim and party deposed to have your lawyer present during the deposition. Although the other party's lawyers will be primarily asking the questions, your lawyer can also ask questions to follow up or to clear up any areas of concern brought up during the questioning of the opposing lawyer.
Best Possible Scenario Following a Deposition in a Personal Injury Lawsuit: The Case Settles
It is impossible to know how every deposition will go. The defendants in the personal injury lawsuit have a plan going into a deposition. Depending on what they learn, they may offer a settlement shortly after the testimony concludes.
Your attorney can then present you with the offer and discuss whether you find it acceptable or want to make a counteroffer or continue negotiations. If you reach an agreement and find the settlement acceptable, you can accept it, and the dispute ends.
Once a settlement agreement occurs, there is no longer a need for a trial, and the lawsuit can end. However, if the other side does not offer a settlement or an agreement is not possible at this juncture, then the preparation in the case continues.
Other Possible Scenarios After a Deposition in a Personal Injury Case
When a personal injury case goes to a deposition, the goal is that the deposition provides answers and insight that can help both sides come to an agreement and work together to reach an acceptable solution.
However, the outcome of a deposition and its effect may not appear immediately after its conclusion. It can take time for the parties to go back and review the deposition and the testimony in it.
The length of a deposition can vary drastically from one party to another. For example, a deposition could take just a few hours on an afternoon in some circumstances or can take weeks long in others.
The longer and more involved the deposition, the longer it will take for the parties to receive the final transcript and to have time to review the testimony and ponder what they will do next. The developments following a personal injury lawsuit are not black-and-white decisions; the preparation of a lawsuit and the attempts at resolving a claim for damages can look different in each case.
Mediation May Be Necessary
Although there is much talk of negotiations in a personal injury matter, when negotiations fail, there are other alternatives and, in some cases, requirements for the parties to engage and attempt to resolve the matter outside of a trial. For example, certain jurisdictions mandate that parties undergo mediation for their case to progress toward trial.
Mediation differs from negotiations, although the intent of both actions is similar. In negotiations, the parties enter into discussions directly to try to reach a resolution. Although negotiations can be fruitful, each side ultimately advocates for terms that benefit their client.
Mediation, however, is different in that it brings in a third party with no bias or interest in the case to attempt to serve as a middleman and independent voice during the discussions between both sides to resolve.
In some states, mediation is a mandatory step the court requires following the discovery phase. This is not something that the parties can skip if the court orders it. However, if there is no mandatory requirement, the parties can still agree to participate if they feel it could help reach a resolution.
Negotiating in a personal injury lawsuit is a potentially ongoing matter. In many cases, negotiations will happen on and off in the case during different stages of the lawsuit process and in the hopes of reaching a resolution before a trial begins.
Negotiations may take place and then subside when the parties reach an impasse. However, when the parties receive new information, such as a deposition or other developments, it may trigger them to renew their discussions and negotiate a resolution again.
A personal injury attorney understands the dynamics of a lawsuit and how it works. As a victim, your attorney can negotiate to reach a beneficial settlement. After the deposition in your case, negotiations can continue.
In some cases, these negotiations can result in fruitful discussions and could result in a settlement offer you may agree on. However, in other cases, the negotiations may not be successful and cease when there are areas where the parties cannot agree.
More Depositions and Discovery In the Case
The discovery phase of a trial is when the parties try to learn the evidence and information the other side may present as they advocate their case in court. Once a deposition occurs, the testimony may lead to further discovery.
If more questions arise during a deposition, then a lawyer may seek other depositions from additional witnesses or parties involved or seek additional evidence they learn may be available during the deposition.
Both sides may continue to build their case after deposition by continuing in the discovery stage for some time. If there is still evidence to identify and witnesses to speak with, both parties have the opportunity to satisfy their discovery in the case before moving forward.
Preparing for Trial
If it becomes apparent after the discovery phase that the case cannot resolve without the intervention of the court, then both sides will continue their preparations for a trial on the personal injury lawsuit.
A trial is the final step in the lawsuit process when each side can present their case to the court. Through a trial, each side can present their demands, their evidence, and the testimony of the relevant parties in an attempt to prove their case. As a personal injury victim, the burden is on you to prove your case, including who is at fault for the injuries you sustained and who is liable for the damages you incur because of the accident and its aftermath.
Once both parties present their case, the court can then make a decision and enter a verdict on the matter. Keep in mind that so long as the court has not reached a verdict, negotiations for a settlement can still happen.
The parties may settle in the midst of a trial. If at any point a settlement agreement occurs, the agreement takes effect, and the trial and case end.
Do Most Personal Injury Lawsuits Go to Trial?
No, most personal injury cases will resolve through a settlement agreement at different stages in the lawsuit process.
A victim's personal injury lawyer can fight to reach a resolution that avoids the long, drawn-out process of a trial but pays your damages fairly. However, there are times when such negotiations do not provide the necessary result to compensate a victim fairly for their losses and damages following a personal injury due to negligence.
In these limited scenarios, when the parties liable do not present a settlement offer worth accepting, your lawyer can advise you on your options. When a case cannot reach an agreement, it can be for several reasons.
Common scenarios that may require resolution through a trial include:
- Damages are higher than the insurance policy limits
- There is a dispute as to the value of the damages
- There is disagreement as to the type of damages sought
- Multiple parties are potentially liable for the victim's damages
- An insurer or defendant refuses to accept any liability for the accident
How Long Can a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take to Resolve After the Deposition?
A deposition can be one step closer to resolving your personal injury case. The information the opposing party may learn during the deposition may motivate them to offer a better settlement.
There is no hard set timeline for how long a personal injury lawsuit can take. The only imminent time constraint on a personal injury lawsuit is when the filing occurs, and a victim must ensure they stay within the statute of limitations.
If your lawsuit filing takes place within the statute of limitations, then it does not matter how long it takes for the case to go through the processes required by the court and the law. Personal injury lawsuits typically can resolve within months or take several years.
The wide range of the time it takes to resolve the matter can depend on factors such as whether settlement negotiations are successful or whether it is necessary to go through a trial. Any case that goes to trial can take much longer to resolve because of the time it can take both sides to prepare and the various stages and procedures required by the court.
If you are a personal injury victim with questions about your rights, a potential lawsuit, or the deposition process, contact a personal injury attorney in Philadelphia for a free consultation about your case.