Are you frustrated with an insurance company who keeps asking [stupid] questions about a car accident that you did not cause? I get it. I just returned from a two plus hour deposition taken by a defense lawyer who works for a popular insurance company. For the most part, I don’t have any issues with opposing counsel. She is well trained, quick on her feet, polite, and perfectly capable of defending her client. That’s not my problem. You see, this particular case involves a rear-end auto accident that occurred on the Interstate, near Las Vegas, Nevada. My client was at a complete stop when the defendant driver failed to observe stopped traffic and smashed into the rear of my client’s vehicle. The force of the collision caused my client significant injuries and totaled her vehicle.
To avoid unnecessary legal costs, and based on the facts of this particular case, I suggested that the parties stipulate to liability. In short, I was asking the defendant driver to formally accept responsibility for causing the rear end collision. The stipulation would allow the case to continue as to damages (i.e., injuries, harms and losses) only. Stipulations are a tool whereby the issues in a case are simplified. This results in saved costs and time. The problem? Opposing counsel will not stipulate to liability until after she gets an opportunity to depose my client and quiz her to death about the details of the collision and every day since. Despite my frustration, I agree. If defense counsel isn’t willing to stipulate, I have no choice.
During the deposition, it becomes clear why most of us are frustrated with insurance companies. Like most depositions, defense counsel started with the basics: Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do for a living? Then things became a little more serious– Where were you coming from before the collision occurred? Where were you going to? Had you spent any time drinking alcoholic beverages before the collision? Do you wear eyeglasses? Was anyone else in the car? Do you smoke? Were you listening to music? Were you distracted by anything inside or outside your car? Counsel even went on to ask my client to produce a copy of her license during the deposition so she could read her driver’s license number, expiration date, and driving restriction into the record. In most instances, these tactics are appropriate and, in some instances, expected. However, when you consider what my client was doing at the time of the collision (i.e., safely and legally stopped in traffic on the interstate), it makes it difficult to understand why the insurance company (and their lawyers) want to waste everyone’s time and money by asking irrelevant, fault finding questions.
So why do insurance companies ask these types of questions when liability is undisputed? Because, insurance companies want to create doubt– in you, your case, and the juror’s minds. They want to nit pick every injured plaintiff until they fold or break under the pressure. They want fault free drivers to feel bad about listening to music in their car, or believe they did something wrong because, milliseconds before the collision, they didn’t make some heroic maneuver to check their mirrors, activate turn signals, look over shoulders, and safely merge into a nearby lane. In most instances, driver’s injured in a rear-end collision do not bear any legal blame. Further, there is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to music (though counsel may not appreciate your taste), or coming to safe, complete stop on the interstate when heavy traffic has slowed everyone down. There is, however, a very real problem when a driver fails to pay attention, slams into the back of a parked car at interstate speeds and tries to shift the blame.
Even the simplest of cases can become frustrating. Don’t let it consume your life. Consult with a qualified trial lawyer for help. Consultations at our office are always free and we are happy to help. If, as a community, we allow negligent drivers to avoid accountability, we are only harming ourselves. I believe our community expects more out of at-fault drivers and insurance companies. I know they expect more out of jurors. If you are frustrated and need help, or if you simply have questions, please contact my office for a free consultation at (702) 522-7707.