I have several people call my office in a panic because they have received a notice of a Deposition in the mail and they are not sure what this means or what is happening.
“In the law of the United States, a deposition is the out-of-court oral testimony of a witness that is reduced to writing for later use in court or for discovery purposes. It is commonly used in litigation in the United States and Canada and is almost always conducted outside of court by the lawyers themselves (that is, the judge is not present to supervise the examination).” Taken from www.Wikipedia.org
Basically, you will be sitting down with the attorney for the insurance company, your attorney (if you have one) and a court reporter who will type a transcript of all the testimony given that day. Testimony is given under oath and will be presented at the hearing to determine whether or not an individual is entitled to workers’ comp benefits.
Depositions can be intimidating but this is a fundamental step in the process of litigating your Workers’ Compensation claim. I have put together some tips below for injured workers who may be attending a deposition as there are things you need to be aware of before you sit down with the insurance company’s attorney.
1) BE PREPARED – Review your medical and injury history (doctors’ notes, injury reports and any statements given about how the injury took place) and be prepared to answer questions about any discrepancies in these – remember, consistency is key! Also, review your answers to interrogatories as many questions in a Deposition will be based on this information.
2) TELL THE TRUTH – This testimony is given under oath and will be used at the hearing. If you are caught in a lie it will destroy your credibility and this does irreparable damage to your case. If you are not sure how to answer a question, ask for clarification or if you don’t know the answer you can honestly say “I don’t know.”
3) ANSWER THE QUESTION AND NOTHING MORE – This is one of the biggest traps injured workers’ fall into. This is not a time to plead your case or tell the attorney how this injury has caused so much turmoil in your life; believe me, I know it has, I see it everyday. However, by going off on a tangent instead of answering the question directly, injured workers often unwittingly say too much (remember – everything is recorded in the transcript!). Answer the question completely and directly, if you need clarification or don’t understand the question, ask the defense attorney to repeat it or say “I don’t understand the question.”
4) TALK TO AN ATTORNEY BEFORE THE DEPOSITION – As I said before, the Deposition is recorded into a transcript and the information in the transcript will be used at the hearing. If you go into a Deposition and say something you should not have, it will not be excluded or thrown out of court simply because you were unprepared; you need to get it right on the first try and the best way to do this is to talk to an attorney BEFORE you testimony is recorded.
If you are dealing with a workers’ compensation injury and have questions or think you need some help, please feel free to contact my office for assistance.