In 2015, the United States experienced a 7.2 percent increase in fatalities from car crashes, the largest year-to-year increase since 1965 to 1966. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were increases across the spectrum of motor vehicles, with passenger car and light truck fatalities reaching levels not seen since 2009.
In the aftermath of a car accident, a lawsuit is sometimes filed in court when those involved in the crash cannot reach an agreement to settle claims for damages. Once the lawsuit is filed and served, the parties commence the process of discovery, during which they exchange documents and information that will form the facts of the case. An integral tool of the discovery process is a deposition: a question and answer session during which the parties and others testify under oath to the facts of the case as they know them, usually recorded verbatim by a skilled court reporter.
The person questioned during a deposition is the deponent. Since depositions are the one opportunity before trial for an attorney to pose direct questions to the party on the other side, it is paramount that the questioning elicits relevant information from the deponent.
In a car accident case, each party will naturally want to learn the other party’s version of how the accident happened. However, just as important may be the condition of the driver at the time of the accident, and an explanation of the damages claimed by the injured party in the lawsuit. Therefore, an attorney preparing for deposition in a car accident case would want to pose the following three essential questions to the deponent:
- What is your background and driving history? Questions about background and driving history should obtain basic identification information such as names and addresses used, driver’s license and car insurance information, and information about other car accidents the deponent was involved in. Questions that explore the deponent’s family and educational background, criminal history, and any other civil lawsuits they have been a party to should also be asked in this portion of the deposition.
- How did the accident happen? The quality of the questions asked to obtain the deponent’s version of how the accident happen can make or break a case. Well-crafted questions should garner complete responses related to all aspects of the accident such as when and where the accident happened, traffic and weather conditions at the accident scene, known witnesses, and the deponent’s mental and physical condition at the time of the crash.
- What damages are you claiming were caused by the accident? Arriving at a true valuation of the damages alleged to have been caused by the accident should form the basis of the third key question in a car accident deposition. To assess the viability of these claims, the questioner will want to know whether the deponent had prior health issues that may been made worse by the accident, the identity of medical providers and what services they provided, deponent’s current prognosis, and whether they will need future medical care. The deponent should also be asked about how the accident affected their ability to work, and their activities of daily living.
Car accident victims are often preoccupied with health, rehabilitation and work-related issues immediately following the crash. Seeking the assistance of an experienced attorney as soon as reasonably possible could help get responsive answers and information needed to help win the case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Capital Reporting Company for their insight into personal injury depositions.