This morning, I deposed Jeff Kidd with Collison Specialists out of Gainseville Georgia. Jeff was hired in a case where I represent the family of a woman who was thrown from her motorcycle when a driver who had been licensed for 10 months got a flat tire and decided to park his car in the middle of I-285. The motorcyle could not avoid the minivan that came to a sudden stop in front of him and the woman was thrown and died.
I talk with a lot of young lawyers who prepare to depose the insurance company’s lawyer and believe that they need to attack every conclusion. The fact is that a reasonable and well prepared expert is not going to be “broken” on cross examination. The key to taking a useful deposition is to listen carefully to their conclusions and decide which ones do no harm and which ones need to be attacked. Once you identify the opinions that are harmful, go at the factual underpinnings and assumptions. Normally it is the car accident Reconstructionist’s assumptions that are the most vulnerable. You can often open play in their opinion by getting them to admit that if other assumptions are true, their conclusions can be significantly off. Atlanta wrongful death attorneys practice this common sense approach that is respectful of the expert and the jury.
Even if the expert cannot be moved on their core beliefs, they can often be discounted in the eyes of the jury if they refuse to agree to simple truths that will be obvious to the jury. To this day, I do not understand why a good expert won’t make simple concessions that don’t kill their overall opinion.
As I went though the deposition this morning, I was again reminded how unbalanced the entire process is for families. This case started because Geico refused to pay the $30,000 policy limits for the death of the rider. Even after realizing that their driver is a disaster as a witness and has conjured up a story involving a mystery engine failure, they continue to spend money on silly depositions and hiring experts. What choice to car accident victims have any more? People wonder why lawyers are in such demand when the question is better posed: why aren’t insurance companies doing a better job of paying car accident claims directly to the families? If word got around that claims could be settled directly with consumers, it would not take long for personal injury lawyers to shrivel statistically.
Who am I kidding, that would require vision, courage and a sense of moral rectitude that is just…absent.