How Long After a Deposition Will I Get a Settlement in Florida?
Bill Allen | July 26, 2023 | Personal Injury
A deposition cannot take place until after you file a personal injury lawsuit. However, just because you file a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean that your case will go to trial. Many personal injury victims file lawsuits for the sole purpose of gaining access to the pretrial discovery process, including depositions.
That’s no surprise—pretrial discovery can yield enough evidence to decisively shift the balance of power in negotiations. Most depositions lead to settlement, not trial. There is no formula, however, that can tell you exactly how long it will take to traverse the journey from deposition to settlement.
General Timeline of a Florida Personal Injury Case
Since few personal injury cases ever go to trial, the typical case begins and ends in a law office.
Following is a typical timeline of a personal injury lawsuit:
- The claimant (typically the accident victim) engages in a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer or with several different lawyers.
- The claimant hires a lawyer.
- The lawyer gathers information and documentation about the case from the claimant and third parties. This might include medical records, photos of the scene of the accident, and interviews with witnesses.
- The lawyer sends a demand letter to the party responsible for paying the claim, usually an insurance company.
- Settlement negotiations begin.
- Negotiations stall, and in response, the claimant files a lawsuit.
- Both parties undergo the pretrial discovery process (including depositions).
- Negotiations resume.
- A mediator may be brought in to break any stalemate in negotiations.
- The parties reach an agreement in principle.
- The parties hammer out the terms of a settlement agreement, and representatives of both parties sign it.
- The insurance company disburses the settlement funds to the claimant’s lawyer.
- The lawyer deducts appropriate amounts from the settlement.
- The lawyer forwards the balance to the claimant.
This timeline can vary quite a bit. For example, many claims settle before the claimant files a lawsuit. A few cases cannot settle at all and instead go all the way to trial. The question that this article attempts to answer is how long it might take to get from the pretrial discovery phase to the claimant receiving their compensation.
Pretrial Discovery: How It Works and Why You Might Need It
Most of the time, a claimant lacks sufficient evidence to prove their claim at the time they file a lawsuit. The purpose of pretrial discovery is to give each party an opportunity to gather evidence that is in the possession of the other party.
In some cases, a party to a case might demand evidence from a third party, such as a bank. In short, you need discovery because it might be the only way you can gather the evidence needed to prove your case.
How Depositions Work
A deposition is one component of the pretrial discovery process. In a deposition, one party’s lawyer questions a witness who the opposing party plans to call at trial. All questioning takes place under oath.
Discovery also includes:
- Interrogatories (written questions that the recipient must answer under oath)
- Demands for production (demands to examine physical evidence and copy documents)
- Requests for admissions to relatively trivial facts that the party doesn’t want to bother proving at trial
The typical pretrial discovery process can last for months or even as long as a year. In a best-case scenario, pretrial discovery could uncover so much favorable evidence that the opposing party would immediately agree to your settlement demands. In a worst-case scenario, the evidence would favor the opposing party, thereby forcing you to abandon your claim.
The Dynamics of Negotiation in a Personal Injury Case
Neither party is likely to agree to a settlement if they think they can get a much better deal in court. However, a party might make a concession of moderate value just to stay out of court.
The way to gain leverage in settlement negotiations is to gather enough admissible evidence to prove that you could win in court if the opposing party refuses to agree to your demands.
Although the claimant bears the burden of proving their claim, the standard of proof is much easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies to criminal trials. Many variables could delay the settlement of your claim—such as arguing over the amount of intangible pain and suffering damages.
A Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Might Be Able to Multiply the Value of Your Claim
No honest lawyer will offer you a guaranteed result. There are simply too many variables. Nevertheless, on balance, claimants who retain lawyers tend to end up with much greater compensation more quickly than claimants who represent themselves.
Contact Our Ocala Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida: