If your employer's insurance company is disputing your right to workers’ comp benefits, chances are good that you'll have to give a deposition. A deposition is a legal procedure for asking you questions and having you answer under oath. Although it's not a trial, the written record of your answers will be considered as evidence if your workers' comp case goes to a hearing.
How to Prepare for Your Workers' Comp Deposition
Before your deposition, you should review your medical records, accident reports, journal notes, and other relevant records. While you don’t need to have every detail memorized, you should be familiar with the basic timeline of events in your workers' comp case and be prepared to answer typical questions (discussed below).
What Happens at a Workers' Comp Deposition?
The deposition will probably take place at the offices of the lawyer for the insurance company. You'll sit at a conference table, and a court reporter will have you to take an oath to tell the truth. The insurance company’s lawyer will then ask you a series of questions. Your own lawyer—if you have one—will be present to protect your legal rights and make sure the insurer's attorney doesn't ask any inappropriate questions. The court reporter will transcribe everything that's said and prepare a written transcript, which will serve as evidence in your case.
What Kinds of Questions Will I Be Asked?
The insurance company's lawyer will probably begin by asking you some preliminary questions about your background, such as where you live, what schools you attended, and where you’ve worked in the past. The attorney will then get into how your injuries came about. If you were hurt in a one-time accident, this portion of the deposition may be relatively brief. However, if you have an chronic occupational illness or repetitive stress injury, this line of questioning may take more time.
Other questions may include:
- the medical treatment you've received so far and the doctors who've provided that treatment
- physical limitations that you've experienced since you were injured or developed a work-related illness, including hobbies or other activities that you can't participate in
- any restrictions that your doctor has given for your work activities (such as not lifting heavy objects or limits on how long you can stand)
- previous injuries or accidents
- work duties at previous jobs, and
- sports or other physical activities that you've done in the past.
Although it may not be obvious, some of these questions may be intended to undermine your case by pinpointing a cause for your medical condition other than your most recent work conditions or activities. If you're claiming that you have psychological problems as a result of your injury, the questioning may get quite personal. Most questions are fair game, but they shouldn't delve into personal issues unrelated to your workers' comp case.
Guidelines for Answering Deposition Questions
Of course, you should always tell the truth. The insurance company's lawyer will likely try to catch you in any inconsistencies that could make you seem not credible or untrustworthy. This will be harder to do if you stick to the facts and resist the temptation to embellish or exaggerate. Some other tips for answering the questions:
- Take your time. Wait until the lawyer has finished the question, and give your own attorney time to object if the question isn't appropriate.
- Keep it simple and answer the specific question. Don't get into long-winded answers, volunteer information, or guess. If you don't understand the question or don't know the answer, say so.
- Stay calm and polite. If you find yourself getting upset, you can ask for a break to regroup.
How Long Will My Deposition Take?
Depositions usually take at least a couple of hours. Yours may take longer if you have extensive injuries or a lengthy history of treatment, but it generally shouldn’t take more than eight hours.
In most cases, the insurance company can only take your deposition once. However, if you make a new claim (for example, that you also suffered psychological injuries), the insurance company may get a second opportunity to question you.
Do I Need a Workers' Comp Lawyer?
If you've been called to a deposition, you should consider hiring a workers' comp lawyer. An experienced attorney will know the rules and can help you prepare for the deposition, tell you which questions you don't have to answer, and ask follow-up questions designed to clear up any potential misunderstandings that could hurt your case. Learn how to choose the best lawyer for your workers' comp case.