Legally speaking, a “deposition” is your oral testimony, which is taken under oath. This consists of the infamous raising of the right hand and swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and your testimony in a worker’s compensation case will consist of your responses to questions asked by both your attorney and the opposing attorney. Depositions usually take place in a conference room within the office of your attorney, the opposing attorney, or a court reporter and, during these hearings, court reporters type every single thing said by anyone in the room.
An insurance carrier’s investigation of your claim is the most common reason for these depositions. The carrier wants to know what caused your injuries, what medical treatment you’ve received thus far, and what treatment was recommended by particular doctors who may report to the carrier directly.
There are multiple entities involved in any worker’s compensation claim, including the employer/carrier, your physicians, an adjuster, and perhaps a nurse case manager or HR representative, all of which serve as separate – and possibly conflicting – sources of information for the adjuster. A deposition allows the insurance company to hear from you directly, under oath, to provide testimony regarding your injuries. You may be asked to explain how the accident occurred, to whom you reported it, or whether you’ve received medical treatment or compensation for lost wages, but there’s no need to be nervous; your attorney will be right there with you from beginning to end.
Some instructions and ground rules may be established before a deposition. Yes-or-no questions must be answered with a verbal “yes” or “no,” as head-nodding and other body language cannot be accurately interpreted on the record. You must also wait for the attorney to finish a question completely before beginning your answer in order to avoid interrupting the typing of dialogue, as two people talking at once cannot be interpreted accurately. Also, answering a question means you understood the question being asked; if you do not fully understand a question, you must ask for it to be repeated.
If you have a worker’s compensation claim, you will go through a deposition-review with your attorney before you’re scheduled to speak under oath, and this may include being prepared for questions which seem irrelevant to your case. Questions about your work experience or educational background are often meant to determine your “transferrable skills,” while questions about your family or marital status may be to determine whether you have dependents. While you can rest assured you will be well-prepared with your attorney, it’s also important to remember some mistakes and pitfalls to avoid:
- Never speak beyond your knowledge or guess the answer to a question. If it’s the truth, “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer in your testimony. You may not know particular details or answers to highly specific questions, and attempting to answer them anyway can certainly come back to haunt you.
- Provide full, accurate answers regarding your medical history. While depositions are not quizzes regarding prior injuries or medical treatment, it can be detrimental to directly withhold such information. Answer all medical questions to the best of your knowledge and memory.
- Do not exaggerate your injuries, symptoms, pain, or physical limitations. Any such exaggeration which is then disproven – which often occurs via surveillance – can be devastating to your case. If you claim to be unable to walk normally and are then caught on film going for a jog, your false statement under oath will certainly be used against you. Every case is different, so your honest answers should be unique, as well.
- Leave your emotions at the door and do not allow opposing counsel to anger you. Most depositions last about one hour and certainly do not involve any offensive comments or behavior from opposing counsel. However, if this does occur, do not let your emotions override your logical thinking, as this agitation may alter your answers or lead you to say things you’ll regret later. Stay calm and rational no matter what is said.
- Always answer truthfully. In the eyes of the judge, dishonesty devastates your credibility and may preclude your eligibility for benefits from worker’s compensation. Answer all questions to the best of your ability and avoid absolute and irreversible responses, such as “never,” “absolutely not,” or “under no circumstances.”
Deposition-reviews are generally scheduled at least a few days in advance. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the workplace, contact Mike Agruss Law, LLC for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based injury law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have suffered an injury in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you.
Lastly, Mike Agruss Law is not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.