Depositions are part of the legal process when it comes to pursuing an Atlanta car accident case. Cases most often head to “litigation,” which is a fancy legal term for filing a lawsuit, in one of three scenarios. First, there is a dispute about what happened. Both individuals involved in the accident claim they had the green light as they entered the intersection. Second, there is a dispute on causation-did the accident cause the claimed injuries? The issue that most often comes up here is the amount of the property damage most of the carriers operating in the Metro Atlanta area, including Allstate, State Farm, Geico, and Progressive, have cutoffs when it comes time to evaluate your case for settlement. The more property damage you have, the easier your claim will be to present to the insurance company. The less property damage you have, the more pushback you will get. Generally speaking, if the property damage is under $500 and not visible, the insurance company will offer significantly less than the full value of the claim. Third, damages. Was the treatment reasonable and necessary? If you were involved in a minor fender bender with minimal property damage and accrue over $300,000 in medical bills (don’t laugh, it has happened!) the insurance company will have some questions about relating all of your medical treatment to the accident.
As your attorney, my job is to make sure you are prepared for your deposition. I instruct all of my clients on the following rules to keep in mind throughout the duration of the deposition:
(1) Tell the truth. Folks most often fib about prior accidents and prior injuries. These are two questions that are guaranteed to come in every deposition. The defense lawyer taking your deposition generally knows the answer to the question before its asked. They often obtain a copy of your claim history, which has a complete history of every time you have received payment from an insurance company which goes back years. There is nothing worse than not mentioning an accident in a deposition-it kills your credibility as a witness and leads the defense attorney to think that if they are not being truthful with me about this, what else are they not being truthful with me about? On the prior injuries, anytime you go to a doctor he takes a history. A medical history is important in the doctor’s differential diagnosis. Medical records go back years, and one of the traps defense attorneys like to lay is to get you to commit to the fact that you did not have any (back, neck, knee, etc.) pain prior to the subject accident. Then they can spring a medical record at trial and impeach you with a complaint from the emergency room when you woke up with a sore neck and went to the ER.
(2) Don’t Guess. Guessing most often comes up in terms of time and distances. How long was it between the time of the accident and the time you first presented at the emergency room for treatment? Well, the time of the accident (or at least the time that the officer responded) will be reflected on the accident report, and the time you present at the emergency room will certainly be reflected on the records. Don’t tell the defense lawyer it was 30 minutes if the emergency room records have you showing up 10 hours later. How far aware were you when you first noticed the vehicle being operated by the defendant? How fast was the defendant going right before impact? On these types of questions, it is always best to give ranges. The defendant was approximately 3-5 car lengths away, or he was going approximately 15-20 mph.
(3) Don’t Volunteer any Information. If your case is in litigation, this typically means that the process has been going on for a lengthy period of time, and the insurance company has not treated you fairly. Do not make the other lawyer’s job any easier by volunteering any additional information other than the question asked. This makes the deposition take longer, increases the amount of time you are under oath, and will likely lead to a scenario where you are offering inconsistent information which is not reflected in the medical records.
These are good ground rules to keep in mind for every deposition. In the context of a car accident case, I also have my client review the (1) accident report; (2) selected medical records; (3) any pictures; and (4) discovery responses which your lawyer