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How Deposition Questions Affects Your Car Accident Settlements

deposition questions car accidents


Being well prepared for your deposition questions can significantly increase the amount of your car accident settlements.

However, if you’ve never been through one they can seem intimidating and confusing.

In this article, we’ll cover the main things you need to know so you can be better prepared for your insurance claim. We’ll discuss...

What Exactly is a Deposition?
How Does it Determine Your Settlement Amount?
Who Attends the Deposition?
Where is the Deposition Held?
Which Questions Will They Ask?
What Happens at the Deposition?
5 Simple Tips That Help Your Settlement

Let’s get started….

What Exactly is a Deposition?

A deposition is basically a question and answer session that is conducted under oath.

It’s part of a “discovery” process that is conducted after a car accident lawsuit is filed by an injured victim. [1] The point is to allow both the plaintiff (injur victim) and defendant ( insurance company) to exchange information about the insurance claim.

In order to do this, you will be asked questions by the other party's attorney and vice versa. Your attorney will be able to advise you and provide guidance during the testimony.

How Does it Determine Your Settlement Amount?

If you want to receive a high settlement amount a deposition matters.

Insurance companies use this process to evaluate just how much your settlement is worth. They also try to anticipate how your case might look to a potential jury.

For example, during your questioning the insurance company will be asking themselves questions like:

  1. Do you come off honest and believable?

  2. Are your injuries serious?

  3. Would a jury sympathize with your pain and suffering?

All of these things play a BIG role in determining exactly what your settlement is worth.

If you come across as sincere and sympathetic, chances are you will make the same impression on a jury. Which means you will get a high settlement.

Obviously an insurance company does not want this and would prefer to settle your claim rather than going to trial and potentially losing more money.

Therefore by being well prepared for a deposition, you can significantly increase your chances of negotiating a higher settlement offer.

Who Attends the Deposition?

Only a handful of people attend will attend your meeting. The typical list includes:

People Giving Testimonies

The person who testifies is known as “deponent”. For an insurance claim this can include:

  • The drivers involved in the collision

  • Any witnesses to the collision

  • Passengers involved in the crash

  • Police officers investigating the crash

  • Doctors who provided medical treatments

Attorneys

This includes attorneys from both the plaintiff and defense. For a car insurance claim this typically is the personal injury attorney for the injured victim(s) and defense counsel for the insurance companies.

Court Reporter

A judge usually does not get involved at this point. Instead a court reporter oversees the process. The court reporter swears you in before the questions from the attorneys begin.

The court reporter also records everything that is said by all the people present at the meeting. This is usually done with via a video recorder (or audio recorder) and later converted to a transcript if requested. These recorded statements can later be presented as evidence at a trial if needed.

It is important to know that you are under oath the entire time you are being questioned. You are required by law to tell the truth. If you are found to be giving false testimony, you may face criminal penalties for perjury.

Where is the Deposition Held?

It can be held at any location that is reasonable for the witness testifying.

This can include:

  • Law firm offices of the attorneys involved
  • Court libraries
  • Conference rooms
  • Witness’s own home

Which Questions Will They Ask?

Every deposition is going to be different, but when it comes to car insurance claims the questions asked typically fall into three categories.

1. Personal/background information:

-What is your name, address, date of birth, phone number.

-Questions about your family members/marital status

-What your employment history for the past 5-10 years, (salary, time spent unemployed, etc)

-What is your educational history (ex: degrees, and certificates achieved)

-What is your criminal record? (ex: drunk driving, felonies, misdemeanors, etc)

-Any Involvement in prior civil lawsuits or insurance claims

2. Specific details about the accident :

-Where and when did it occur?

-Questions about weather conditions, traffic conditions, traffic control devices, stop lights, etc

-Where were you going?

-Who was with you?

-What were you doing before collision?

-When did you see the other driver?

-What did you did you do,

-How fast were you going?

-Where was your car positioned?

-Were there any witnesses,

-What does the police report say?

-What physical damage did your vehicle sustain, do you have any photos or diagrams of the crash scene

3. Injuries and medical treatment :

-A full list of injuries that happened as a result of the collision

-How did you feel at the scene? Were you able to walk? etc

-Were any pre-existing conditions made worse?

-What are your symptoms? how has it affected your daily life/ work? etc

-When did you initially receive treatment for your injuries?

-Full list of all medical treatment providers

-What were the total cost of medical expenses so far, out of pocket or pending

What you’ll be asked varies but this should give you a baseline for what to expect.

What is the Deposition Process?

If you will take part in a deposition you will be notified well in advance so you can arrange to be free and prepare for it. If one party does not want to participate the court may issue a subpoena making their participation mandatory.

Generally, the process starts with the deposing attorney giving an introductory statement and informing you of the rules. These will be basics such as you are under oath, your statements are being recorded, you can go back and correct the record if needed, etc.

Depositions are limited by law to last no longer than 7 hours on one single day [2]. 7 hours may sound like a long time, but the good news is that most are much shorter than this. It really all comes down to the specifics of your case.

5 Tips That Help Your Settlement

There are 5 critical things to keep in mind during that can help your car insurance claim:

  1. A deposition is NOT a conversation. If you notice that you start feeling comfortable and the words are flowing back and forth you’re making a mistake. You need to approach each question carefully. Which means taking a lot of pauses between each answer

  2. Don’t tell long stories or go on tangents. The opposing attorney wants to get as much out of you as possible, so do your best to limit answers to 1 concise sentence. Answer all the questions you can but don’t offer up extra information.

  3. Over prepare. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to do your homework. Run through all relevant facts beforehand, take notes, consult with your attorney and ask for their advice.

  4. Present yourself well. Making a good impression can help your claim. So you want to present yourself in the best light. Physically this means simple things like getting a haircut, shaving, brushing your hair, and wearing decent, semi-formal clothing.

You should also be cautious of how you conduct yourself during the questions. It may be difficult not to get emotional during the process but try to remain polite and even keel. Make sure to stop and take a few breathes if you feel overwhelmed and you can ask for a quick break if needed.

  1. Don’t guess or lie. This should go without saying but don’t be dishonest. If you don’t know the answer or can’t remember simply say ‘I don’t know’. If you don’t understand a question always ask for clarification.

Many people don’t want to appear stupid in this way, but it’s in your best interest to make sure you understand everything that is being asked.

Summary

Depositions can be stressful but hopefully we’ve taken some of the mystery out of them. Just remember to keep a few things in mind:

  • They are question-and answer sessions conducted under oath by an attorney.

  • The answers you provide can have significant impact on your settlement amount.

  • The questions will cover three main categories: personal information, accident specific details, and medical treatment information.

  • It’s NOT a conversation, present yourself well, do not provide overly elaborate answers, don’t lie or guess and over prepare.


Sources

[1]- American Bar
[2]- Federal Rules


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