Impact of Remote Depositions on Personal Injury Cases

Discovery is a critical phase of any personal injury (PI) case, and it’s highlighted by depositions. Many a personal injury matter is won or lost in the deposition of a plaintiff, defendant, or expert witness. So it’s important to get it right. 

Increasingly, attorneys are choosing to take critical personal injury depositions remotely. With the right tools, skilled litigators can take testimony as effectively in a remote deposition as they can in person, saving time and money in the process. It’s no exaggeration that remote depositions hold the potential to transform discovery in personal injury cases.

The Rise of Remote Depositions

It wasn’t long ago that remote depositions occurred only on the fringes of litigation. To save time and travel expenses, litigators might depose a minor witness by phone, or examine a witness over a conference room video link when that was the only option. Costly remote deposition solutions that truly mimicked an in-person setting, like telepresence technology, lay beyond the resources of most firms. 

But as laptop cameras became ubiquitous and data costs dropped, lawyers began to see the potential in conducting more depositions from the comfort of their offices. And just as that notion began to take hold,  Covid happened. Overnight, the option of taking remote depositions became a necessity. 

Like everything pandemic-related, the transition to remote deposition had its challenges. Existing online video conference solutions like Zoom proved to be ill-suited to the demands of taking and transcribing sworn testimony remotely. Lawyers, office staff, and court reporters struggled with the mechanics of tasks as simple as swearing witnesses, marking and sharing exhibits, making timely objections, and ensuring the accuracy of a transcript despite constant video lags, audio dropouts, and assorted technical and human glitches.

But everyone adapted, as they do, and innovation flourished. Firms discovered that court reporting services existed that had recognized an opportunity to develop platforms specializing in scheduling, administering, and transcribing remote depositions. The solutions they developed gave lawyers the tools they needed to capitalize on the promise of remote depositions, like convenience and cost-savings, while addressing the unique needs of litigators and witnesses. Today’s remote deposition tech offers the essential features firms need for a truly successful remote deposition, like: 

  • All-in-one scheduling, administration, and transcription
  • Pre-uploading and marking of exhibits
  • Seamless exhibit sharing with witnesses and opposing counsel
  • A user interface that’s intuitive for litigators and their staff
  • Live transcription and video capture
  • Virtual breakout rooms for off-the-record or privileged discussions
  • Near-instant turnaround on draft rough transcripts
  • Audio-visual services like deposition videos synced with a transcript text
  • Certification of official transcripts in hard copy and electronic formats

There’s no doubt that remote depositions are here to stay, and thanks to these innovations, today’s remote depositions match in-person sessions in their efficacy. 

Related: The Future of Digital Court Reporting

The Many Upsides of Remote Depositions in Personal Injury Litigation

Of all the litigation specialties, personal injury practice stands to see some of the biggest impacts from the shift to remote depositions. It’s not a stretch to expect remote depositions to become just as (if not more) common than in-person testimony in PI cases. Here’s why. 

Cost Savings for Litigators Naturally Inclined to Seek Them

Litigation costs play a major role in personal injury work. For a plaintiff’s lawyers working on contingency, every dollar of expense in pursuing a PI case represents a dollar less in their client’s (and their own) pocket. Personal injury defense lawyers, for their part, face relentless pressure to keep costs down from the liability insurance carriers who pay their bills (the same goes for in-house insurance defense litigators). 

Personal injury, in other words, is a practice area already naturally inclined toward saving money on traveling for and taking depositions. The promise of saving time and money by taking depositions remotely has long held a special allure for PI litigators. Purpose-built deposition platforms make this a reality. 

Convenience for Injured Plaintiffs

Personal injury plaintiffs’ lawyers know well the particular challenges of having their client deposed. Plaintiffs in PI cases experience all the usual stress and anxiety that comes with sitting for a deposition. But on top of that, they’re also saddled with potentially debilitating physical injuries and emotional distress. Simply making them available for a timely deposition that won’t threaten their health and well-being, while accommodating their physical or psychological limitations, can pose a mountainous obstacle for the plaintiff’s counsel.  

Related: Tips for Scheduling Depositions Effectively

Remote depositions hold the potential to ease that burden or even eliminate it in some cases. When the setting of a deposition does not matter, it’s far easier to make arrangements to assure the plaintiff’s comfort. That, in turn, can go a long way in alleviating the typical angst and trepidation plaintiffs feel about being deposed, which can make for more effective prep sessions and clearer testimony. 

Expanded Expert Pools

Lawyers on both sides of the “v.” in a personal injury case routinely turn to experts to bolster their arguments. But geography has historically represented a limiting factor in securing an expert to assist with a matter. Experts who might otherwise fit the bill may turn down work if it means traveling for a deposition. And cost-conscious lawyers may not be willing or able to accommodate an expert’s demand not to have to travel. 

Remote depositions solve this issue. And by doing so, they increase the size of the pool PI counsel have to choose from to support their claims or defenses. 

Personal Injury Remote Deposition Best Practices

To maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of a remote deposition in a personal injury case, it helps to follow best practices. Here are some suggestions. For more detail, check out the ABA’s recently adopted best practices for remote depositions

  • Be transparent with the court and opposing counsel about your remote deposition preference, so that it can be incorporated into the case management plan or scheduling order.
  • If possible, agree with opposing counsel on an all-in-one remote deposition service you will use for all remote depositions, to maximize efficiency and ease of use.
  • Notify opposing counsel in advance about any physical or psychological limitations a witness has that must still be accommodated while taking a remote deposition.
  • Do a test run of the remote deposition platform if you haven’t used it before (the right service will be happy to demo it), to get familiar with its features. 
  • Upload exhibits to the remote deposition platform in advance and work with the court reporter to mark the ones you wind up using during the deposition. 
  • Notify the court reporter in advance about case-specific vocabulary, like medical terminology,  to promote the accuracy of the draft transcript. 

This isn’t a complete list. As your familiarity with purpose-built remote deposition platforms grows, so will your own list of how you like to do things. In no time at all, you’ll be realizing the benefits of remote depositions without any of the downsides that come with using generic solutions. 

Enhance Your Personal Injury Practice By Connecting With a Remote Deposition Service

Personal injury lawyers have long recognized the potential for remote depositions to be a game-changer in the future. But now the future has arrived. By working with a remote deposition service provider, personal injury attorneys can finally realize the long-promised efficiencies and cost savings that have, until now, seemed just over the horizon.

Remote Legal is a remote deposition service that offers an all-in-one suite of solutions built with the needs of litigators in mind. Contact us today for a product demo and see how we can streamline your depositions. 

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