What Happens in a Personal Injury Lawsuit After the Deposition?

Posted on: Thu Aug 12

Filing a personal injury lawsuit exposes you to the possibility of being deposed by defense counsel, which can be a daunting experience in and of itself. Beyond that, plaintiffs often have concerns about what happens after a deposition, and how what they said during deposition may factor into their lawsuit. Read on for more information about what happens after the deposition.

A Transcript Is Made

Depositions do not directly involve the court. However, they contain sworn testimony and, as such, are either recorded by a stenographer or, more often, recorded electronically. After the deposition, a transcript of everything said on the record is produced. You and your attorney will have the opportunity to look over the transcript to ensure that the information provided is accurate, and to file any objections if you see errors. The transcript should also include any documents that were used and discussed during the deposition, such as accident pictures or a copy of the police report.

While the information provided in a deposition is considered hearsay and is therefore generally inadmissible in court, the information gained in the deposition can still be valuable, especially if it reveals the existence of other evidence or otherwise informs how a party will proceed to build its case. Additionally, a deposition transcript and recording can be entered into evidence and used for limited purposes.

Lawyers use depositions:

As evidence that the individual who was deposed admitted to something against their interest
To call into question the credibility of a witness’s testimony in court by demonstrating that it contradicts the testimony they provided in the deposition
As testimony, as an exception to the rule against hearsay, when meeting certain requirements, including that the deposed witness can’t testify at the trial

New Discovery Requests

The deposition can provide important new information for both sides in a personal injury case. Often, the answers that were received will lead to further questions and evidence leads. Thus, new discovery requests may follow, such as requests to produce certain documents or requests to answer certain questions. Deposing a witness for a second time is rare. However, written depositions can be administered, and other information can also be requested, such as an independent medical exam (IME).

An IME is an evaluation of an injured party that utilizes a third-party physician who is not generally involved in the injured party’s care. The idea is to get an objective assessment of a plaintiff’s medical condition, which may help to prove or disprove the plaintiff’s allegations about their injuries. An IME will often involve the physician asking questions about the accident that caused your injury, reviewing medical records related to the treatment of the injury, and performing tests to analyze your functional capacity and how your injury has impacted your ability to complete routine, day-to-day tasks.

If you are asked to submit to an IME, your attorney will ensure that the evaluation is held at a time and location that you can attend, and will give you an idea of the questions you will likely be asked. It is important to remember that, while the IME is conducted by a third party, the defendant’s purpose in requiring you to undergo an IME is to attempt to disprove your injuries or the severity of them.

Your attorney will be deposing the defendant and witnesses as well, and the product of those depositions can lead to other discovery requests for evidence that you need to prove your case in court.

Spur Settlement Negotiations

Many times, depositions provide clarity to the facts in a way that exposes weaknesses in the defense’s case. This will generally spur settlement negotiations back up as the insurance company wishes to avoid further the likelihood that the court will side with the plaintiff, on top of all the litigation costs it will incur up to that point. A settlement occurs when both parties agree to the terms, including the amount of compensation to be paid. There can be other terms included at the request of one party or another, such as the timing of payment, or agreement to keep the details of the settlement private, or a proviso that neither side admits fault by agreeing.

When all the details of the settlement have been agreed upon and both sides have signed the agreement, the plaintiff, or the parties jointly, move to dismiss the case, because the parties settled. The agreement is legally binding, and generally includes terms indicating how it can be enforced. Neither party can breach its terms unless one party can show the agreement is invalid, such as because the party agreed to it under duress or because of a misrepresentation by either party.

Your Attorney May Prepare for Litigation

If the parties do not settle, the case will go to trial. Your attorney will have collected evidence and witnesses and will submit lists to the court. The parties will have an opportunity to object to witnesses or exhibits on certain grounds. After exhibit and witness lists are filed and preliminary admissibility issues are resolved, the case will be ready for trial.

Preparation for litigation also involves organizing the evidence and preparing to examine witnesses on the stand. Your personal injury attorney will prepare opening and closing statements and questions to ask witnesses. Settlement negotiations can continue throughout this process, and even after the trial has begun but before the court’s final judgment. The vast majority of personal injury cases resolve before trial, though some resolve during the personal injury trial.

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