Serious injuries can happen suddenly – to almost anyone at almost any time. Merely walking down the sidewalk, you could be severely injured by a reckless driver – or bitten by an aggressive unleashed dog. You could slip on spilled juice or milk at the supermarket, or you could suffer food poisoning at a south Florida restaurant and become seriously ill. What is your legal recourse if someone else’s carelessness makes you an injury victim?
If you are injured in the state of Florida and someone else’s negligence is the reason why, you are entitled under this state’s personal injury laws to full compensation for your medical treatment, lost wages, and related damages. Of course, you’ll have to prove that you were injured – and that your injury was caused by another person’s negligence – and in South Florida, that will require the help of an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer.
In the state of Florida, personal injury trials actually happen rarely. Most cases are resolved out-of-court through negotiations by both sides’ attorneys, saving everyone the time, money, and aggravation that a trial entails. If the parties cannot come to an agreement that’s acceptable to both sides, a case may end up in the courtroom, but before any personal injury case becomes a trial in Florida, there’s an initial investigation of the case and a procedure called “discovery.”
WHAT HAPPENS FIRST WHEN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT IS FILED?
When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, both sides in the case need to begin compiling as much evidence as possible regarding the accident and injury. Both sides need to investigate all of the details and allegations in the case – and the other party’s claims in particular – thoroughly and comprehensively. If these initial investigations do not lead to a quick settlement, the discovery phase of the personal injury process will then begin.
In the discovery phase, both sides of the case exchange the evidence and information they’ve gathered, take testimony with “depositions” and “interrogatories,” and prepare for trial. The main tool used to obtain testimony in the discovery phase is the deposition. A deposition is an interrogation under oath conducted prior to a trial in a civil or criminal proceeding. Depositions are usually “taken” or conducted in an attorney’s office.
Depositions offer both sides in a personal injury case an opportunity to interrogate the other side under oath prior to any trial. Depositions are key to the discovery process because by conducting depositions, attorneys hope to “discover” evidence that supports their clients’ claims.
Because deposition testimony is given under oath, it can be read at a personal injury trial if the “deponent” is unable to testify, and the deposition has the same weight and value in a trial as in-person testimony.
WHAT DOES A DEPOSITION INVOLVE?
The testimony in a deposition is face-to-face testimony similar to courtroom testimony; a lawyer asks questions, a deponent answers those questions, the opposing lawyer can make objections, and a court reporter (or in some cases today, a videographer) records the deposition. Subsequent to a deposition that involves a court reporter, the deponent, and the court reporter will usually sign statements confirming the transcript’s accuracy.
If you have been injured by negligence, you are seeking damages through a personal injury lawsuit, and the defendant’s lawyer “deposes” you:
– Your own attorney should accompany you to the deposition.
– Answer every question truthfully. You’ll be under oath.
– Offer only precise answers to only the questions you are asked – nothing more.
– Before you answer each question, pause just for a moment to give your attorney an opportunity to object to the question.
Personal injury lawyers will sometimes conduct a practice or mock deposition session with a client before any actual deposition. If you are going to be deposed, your lawyer will help you review and remember the facts. That’s important because you do not want to bring notes to a deposition.
They might become evidence. In personal injury depositions, you may be asked about:
– your age, occupation, and medical condition prior to the accident
– previous injuries and accidents
– the current injury and accident – in detail
– your medical diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis
– the effect of your injury on your work, your family, and your everyday routine
WHAT ARE INTERROGATORIES AND SUBPOENAS?
An “interrogatory” is similar to a deposition and may also be central to a personal injury case’s discovery phase. An interrogatory is a formal set of written questions. If you are the injury victim in a personal injury case – legally called the “plaintiff” – you may be asked by the defendant’s attorney to answer a set of interrogatory questions comparable to the questions (listed above) that you might be asked in a deposition. Just like a deposition, an interrogatory is “under oath,” so answering accurately and honestly are essential to prevailing with your personal injury lawsuit.
A subpoena is yet another tool that attorneys frequently use in the discovery phase of a personal injury case. A subpoena is a legal document that orders an individual to testify at a deposition or that requires particular documents (like medical records or business files) to be produced for examination by the attorneys and the court. The failure to comply with a subpoena may lead to a criminal penalty.
Most personal injury lawyers will make every effort to negotiate a settlement to a personal injury case outside of the courtroom and before a trial begins. Most personal injury cases in Florida are resolved this way, but when a defendant will not make an acceptable settlement offer to an injury victim, going to trial becomes necessary. Your personal injury attorney should be a skilled negotiator but should also have considerable trial experience and a record of success on behalf of clients.
If you have suffered a personal injury in South Florida, seek the advice of an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer immediately. You may be compensated for your current and future medical expenses, your lost wages and lost future earning capacity, and in some cases, you may even be awarded for the pain and suffering generated by your injury or injuries. If you are injured by someone else’s negligence, promptly get the legal help you need – because nothing is a higher priority than your health and your future.