Depositions in Workers’ Compensation Claims & the Legal Process
If you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the insurer may ask you to undergo a deposition. This is a legal term for a meeting in which a party or other witness answers questions under oath. You should prepare carefully for a deposition, even though you likely will be treated fairly and politely. You should make sure that you are familiar with the medical records related to the claim. Also, you may want to review any descriptions that you have provided of the accident and your injuries. This will help you avoid inconsistent statements at the deposition, which could undermine your credibility in any eventual hearing.
After the deposition, you will be able to review a written transcript of your statements. You can ask to have it corrected if it does not accurately reflect what you said. If you retain an attorney, they will help you prepare for the deposition and protect your rights during it. They can prevent the opposing side from asking improper questions that violate deposition rules, and they can help clarify any questions that may seem confusing.
The Deposition Process
Depositions can vary in length from less than an hour to several hours, so a deponent will benefit from dressing well but comfortably.
In addition to your lawyer, the only other people who are likely to attend a deposition are a court reporter and the lawyer for the insurer who is taking your deposition. The deposition probably will happen not in a court setting but instead at the law firm of the insurer’s attorney. The court reporter will start the process by reminding you that you will be answering these questions under penalty of perjury. You should take this responsibility seriously, even though you are unlikely to be prosecuted if you lie. Losing out on benefits is a very real risk if you are caught distorting the truth.
The lawyer for the insurer may start by simply collecting your background information and asking about any history of filing workers’ compensation claims. Some of the more substantive topics that they may cover include the events that caused your injuries, as well as any pre-existing conditions from which you have suffered. The purpose of these questions is to build evidence that challenges your ability to meet the causation requirement, which involves showing that your injury or illness resulted from your job.
Other questions may involve more medical topics. For example, the lawyer may want you to discuss the treatment that you have received and the treatment that your doctor expects you to need in the future. If you are suffering from a certain disability or restrictions on your ability to work, they may ask you questions about the scope of the disability or restrictions. This can affect your eligibility for an award of permanent disability benefits.
Responding to Questions
You should make sure to behave calmly and courteously throughout the process. This will help you earn the respect of the insurer’s lawyer and encourage the insurer to take your claim seriously. The lawyer will be evaluating your credibility as a witness, which may affect the decision of whether to take the claim to a hearing. You should answer questions clearly and in words, even if they only require simple answers such as “yes” or “no.”
A lie during a deposition can derail a worker’s entire workers’ compensation case and, in rare instances, lead to a perjury charge.
Some questions may be complex or contain multiple parts. You should listen to the entire question and wait until the lawyer stops talking before you answer. This will prevent you from providing an inaccurate answer based on a false assumption, and it will allow your attorney to make any objections that may be appropriate. Rather than guessing at the answer to any question, you should stick to what you know to be true. The insurer’s lawyer or your lawyer can help clarify a question that may be unclear. If you do not know the answer, you should say that you do not know and potentially offer an estimate, while making clear that it is an estimate. Your answers should not contain any information that goes beyond what is necessary to answer the question, even if you think that it is important to convey a certain point.
You do not need to tell the insurer’s lawyer about the contents of your conversations or emails with your attorney. These are protected by the attorney-client privilege, which applies to depositions even though they are in an informal setting with more relaxed rules. Providing confidential information in a deposition removes the privilege and makes the information admissible as evidence in a hearing. (Your attorney likely will object to any question that requires information covered by the privilege as well.)