So, your deposition has been scheduled and you are scared to death. To make you a bit more comfortable, let me give you some information about depositions.
First, let me assure you that you do need to go. If you do not go to the deposition the first time it is schedule, the Commission will enter an Order compelling you to attend. If you do not attend the deposition the second time it is scheduled, your claim will be dismissed. So, rather than risk having your claim dismissed, just go. If you are too scared to go alone, hire an attorney. We attend depositions in almost every case we have, so it is just another day at the office for us.
What Is a Deposition?
The purpose of the deposition is for the attorney for the other side to determine what you are going to say at the hearing, and to find out if there is some other place they need to look for information. You will be under oath, so your testimony at the hearing will be just like you are testifying in court, so be warned. You probably have answered Interrogatories (the written questions that attorneys send you), you will probably get asked some form of the same questions, so be sure to review what you said in your answers before to be sure you do not contradict yourself.
What Happens at a Deposition and Who Is There?
The attorney who requests the deposition will schedule a court reporter. The court reporter’s job will be taken down everything everyone says. This does not mean that the court reporter works for the attorney, though. The court reporter works through a company completely separate from the attorney, the insurance company, the employer or even the Commission. The court reporter’s job, other than to swear you in, is to make a written record of everything everyone says during the deposition. The court reporter does not have any interest in the outcome of your case.
You do not need to be nervous because the court reporter is in the room. However, you may want to make the court reporters job much easier to be sure that the record he or she makes of the deposition is accurate. This means talking loudly enough for everyone in the room, and on the phone if necessary, to hear you and speaking as clearly as possible. Don’t talk over anyone else. If you have ever tried to take notes in class, you can imagine how hard it is to write down everything one person says. This is twice as hard when two people are talking at once. Even when you don’t mean to do so, you can do it accidentally by answering a question before the attorney is finished with the question. Just be patient and let the attorney finish before you answer.
The other reason you want to wait until the attorney finishes the question is to be sure you understood the question. It may be that you answer in the middle, but the question being asked was completely different than the one you answered. Rather than risk this, just wait.
What do you do if you don’t understand the question? It is easy. You just ask the attorney to repeat the question, and tell them you do not understand, as many times as you need to, until you understand the question.
What if you don’t remember the answer to the question? Then tell the attorney that you do not remember. A deposition is not test like you took in school where you have to know all of the answers off the top of your head. The only wrong answer is an answer that is not the truth. Because of this, I do not recommend that you guess unless you tell the attorney you are guessing. If you guess and are wrong, but don’t mention you are guessing, then, if you testify at the hearing any differently, it can look like you are lying. Just don’t risk it.
Depositions are mentally, if not physically exhausting. Even if the attorney asking you questions is the nicest, most polite person imaginable, you still have to recall a lot of information and it is mentally exhausting. This is not an interrogation in a police station. You can take breaks if you need to do so. Just answer the question you have been asked and tell the attorney you need to take a break. They should let you. If they try to push on, get up and leave. Go to the bathroom. Splash water on your face. Get a drink. Do what you need to do to take a mental break. Then, return to the room.
If sitting for the length of time a deposition will take hurts you in some way, you can change positions. You can answer questions just as well whether you are standing, sitting, or lying flat on your back on the floor. Feel free to change positions if you need to do so. I would recommend telling the other people in the room that you intend to change positions so they don’t think you are running out, but other than that, you can move around as needed.
When the Deposition Is Over
After the deposition is over, you will have the right to read the deposition transcript to determine whether the court reporter’s transcript is accurate. The court reporter can change misspellings, but if you think you said something different than what the court reporter wrote, the court reporter will not change your testimony. You can only make a note of the difference in the margins. It does not happen often because court reporters are hired based on accuracy, and if they are not accurate, they do not continue to work. If you want a copy of the final deposition transcript, you will have to pay for a copy of it. Copies are usually between $150.00 and $250.00, depending on how long the transcript it.
While depositions are stressful, you can get through it. If you remember nothing more of what I have included in this deposition, just tell the truth. It is all you can do.
About the Author: Lorraine D'Angelo
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.