In our last post, our injury accident lawyers gave you an overview of the deposition process, including a brief description of the topics you could expect the defense attorney to cover with you. Here, we will talk in more detail about one of those topics: damages.
What are Damages?
In an injury accident lawsuit, the term “damages” refers primarily to the money awarded to the injured party as compensation for the harm done to him or her. These damages (also called “compensatory damages”) are intended to make the injured party “whole,” and may include compensation for: medical expenses; property damages; lost wages; pain and suffering; mental anguish; and permanent disability. Because the defense attorney knows that his client might ultimately be responsible for paying your damages, he will question you in depth about the nature and scope of your claimed damages.
Let’s look at some sample questions.
In some cases, the injuries received in an accident are physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. In other cases, the injuries are much less severe. Because the seriousness of your injuries greatly affects the amount of damages that might be awarded by a jury (or paid by an insurance company in a settlement), this will be a main focus of the questioning at your deposition. Here are some examples of the types of questions often asked:
- Have you received any diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and MRIs?
- If so, what were the results?
- Exactly which part of your body is injured?
- Can you please touch or show me the exact part of your body where you feel the pain?
- Were you hospitalized for the injury?
- If so, at what hospital?
- Have you received additional medical care for the injury?
- If so, name all of your treating physicians and the dates you treated with each doctor.
Once you identify a particular injury, the defense attorney will ask many follow-up questions about that injury. Expect the defense attorney to be well-versed in the medical terminology and familiar with the medicine. If, for example, you identify your neck as the area of injury, the defense attorney may ask questions similar to the following:
- Do you know which cervical vertebra received injury?
- Have you been diagnosed with a ruptured disc?
- Has any physician informed you that you need a spinal fusion or any other surgery?
In addition to knowing the medicine, the defense attorney also will know your personal medical history. He or she will have read and studied your medical records in advance, and will be very familiar with your injuries. Thus, it is important for you to (a) know your medical records, and (b) answer all medical-related questions truthfully, without embellishing or exaggerating your symptoms or treatment. Don’t give the defense attorney any opportunity to question your credibility. If your deposition testimony differs significantly from your medical records, the defense lawyer could try to use this against you later, at trial, by painting you as “untruthful” to a jury.
Costs and Insurance
Throughout the deposition, the defense lawyer will ask many questions about costs incurred for various services. For example:
- How much was your hospital bill?
- How much was the ambulance bill?
In essence, the attorney will want to know a dollar figure for all expenses incurred. The lawyer will also want to know which costs have been paid, in whole or in part, by insurance companies.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering and mental anguish damages cannot be calculated by a formula, and sometimes can be difficult to prove. They are, however, important elements of your damages. It helps to think about this issue in advance, because even people with severe pain sometimes don’t know how to describe it. Below are some types of questions you might be asked:
- Describe your pain.
- Is it sharp or dull?
- Do you feel a burning sensation?
- Where on your body does the pain start and where does it end?
- What triggers the pain?
- How long does it last?
- Rate your pain on a scale of 1 through 10.
- Is it the same every day?
- What makes it change?
- When is it better?
Lost Wages and Loss of Future Earning Capacity
You are entitled to recover income lost due to the injury as an element of damages. The defense lawyer will ask you questions, such as:
- Were you working at the time of the accident?
- If so, where?
- How much did you earn?
- Were you an hourly employee or salaried?
- If you were not working, when was your last job?
- How much did you earn?
- Are you working now?
- If not, why not?
- Do you expect to be able to return to work in the future?
- If not, why not?
It’s not unusual for the defense attorney to ask questions about a deponent’s entire work history, including training, education, and work skills.
Permanent Impairment and Future Damages
It may be that you are fully healed (or expect to be fully healed in the future) by the time of your deposition. It also may be that you never will be fully healed. The defense lawyer will need to determine the types of problems you expect to have in the future. Questions may include:
- Has any physician given you a permanent impairment rating?
- Has any physician given you a disability rating?
- Has any physician told you that you will need future surgery?
- If so, who is the surgeon?
- If so, when will you have the surgery?
If you were injured in a motor-vehicle accident, you likely will be asked questions about damage to your vehicle. Common areas of inquiry include the following:
- Is the damaged automobile a total loss?
- If so, what was the value of the automobile
- Have you received any appraisals?
- Was the vehicle ever damaged before?
- If so, where and in what way?
- If the vehicle wasn’t a total loss, was it drivable?
- If not, why not?
- Did you incur towing charges?
- If so, how much?
- Did you rent a car due to the damage to your motor vehicle?
- If so, for how long and at what cost?
Talk with our Injury Accident Lawyers
At first glance, the deposition process can seem overwhelming, but our experienced injury accident lawyers will make sure you are well prepared, so you can relax and give your best testimony. Call or email us for a free initial consultation.20