How to Prepare for a Workers’ Compensation Deposition
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
What is a deposition?
A workers’ comp deposition is your witness testimonial before a court reporter outside of a courtroom. More precisely, it’s a recorded meeting between the insurance company’s attorney, the injured worker (i.e. you), and occasionally your employer’s representative as well. And the meeting typically takes place at an attorney’s office. Depending on the injury and particular legal style of the attorney, a deposition can last from an hour to a whole day.
This is a very common step after filing for workers’ compensation. And luckily, despite its dramatization in law films and TV shows, a deposition is rarely so intense or confrontational.
But a deposition does carry a lot of influencing power over the outcome of your case. Your testimony will help determine how much your workers’ compensation is worth. And a good deposition means the insurance company is more likely to settle for a larger amount rather than continue with a court hearing.
Why your deposition matters
This is the insurance attorney’s first impression of you. Before the deposition, the insurance attorney has only read about you in reports. This is your opportunity to be seen as a person and not as a statistic or name on a file.
They’re trying to determine what kind of witness you will be during the official trial, evaluating whether a judge and jury would find your story believable. And the deposition transcript can be used to contradict your statement in court, support your statement, or even read in court if you’re not present during the trial.
Also, your testimony is given under oath, just like it would be in a regular courtroom. And if the information you provided during your deposition is inconsistent with what you say on trial, or during your QME evaluation, you may be charged with perjury. Worst case scenario, you automatically lose your right to any benefits.
You will be able to review your testimony afterwards and make corrections if necessary. But know that the insurance attorney can mention how you changed the testimony you gave under oath during your deposition. And that will also look bad.
Our advice is to prepare in advance. Being interviewed by a defense attorney can be stressful and overwhelming, but there are easy actions to help ready yourself for your deposition.
Dress appropriately, stay calm, and speak clearly.
What to Wear
Appearance is the first thing people notice. Whether your deposition is in person or via video call, dressing appropriately matters.
Your attire should show how serious you are about this case and about recovering from your work-related injury. At its core, a worker’s compensation deposition is a kind of formal interview. So dress how you would for a job interview and keep your appearance neat and clean. You want to look professional, credible, and organized.
· Closed-toe shoes instead of flip-flops and sandals
· A blouse or collared shirt instead of a graphic tee
· Slacks instead of jeans
· Shirts tucked-in
· Long skirts or pants instead of shorts
No need to buy a whole new wardrobe. And when in doubt, keep it simple. Stick to solid colors and basic pieces.
Remember: your deposition may take hours, so be sure to wear something comfortable.
What to Do
Definitely maintain your composure. Try to be polite and calm when answering questions. Do look up at the attorney (or into the video camera) while speaking.
If you feel yourself becoming frustrated or tired, do ask for a break. And don’t hesitate to request an interpreter or translator if needed.
Lastly, do ask for a copy of the deposition transcript. Review your answers thoroughly. If, for whatever reason, you misspoke during the deposition this is your only chance to correct the testimony before it appears in court.
What to Say
The number one rule is to be honest. This does not, however, mean that you need to volunteer every detail. Any private communication between you and your lawyer is covered by attorney-client privilege and (unless directed by your lawyer) you should keep those communications private.
Your responses should be clear and simple. If you’re asked a yes or no question, just answer “yes” or “no.” And don’t rely on gestures to relay information. Say “my left knee” instead of pointing to “this knee.” Or, “my lower back hurts” instead of gesturing behind you and saying “this area hurts.”
Also, please remember that “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer, too. If you’re unsure of what is being asked, tell the attorney you don’t understand the question and would like some clarification. Otherwise, everyone will assume you understood the question and the answer you gave will be part of the official testimony. You can always provide an estimate if you can’t remember the exact piece of information. If asked what time of day something occurred, for example, you can say “sometime in the afternoon” instead of trying to pinpoint the exact hour and minutes.
Lastly, (and I know it can be difficult) stay calm. Pause before answering and speak slowly to avoid any confusion. You only get one deposition so make sure it counts.
The scope of questions an attorney may ask is very broad, but here are some of the most common topics:
· Identifying information (name, address, residency, social security number)
· Whether you have ever been convicted of a felony
· Whether you have reviewed any documents prior
· Your employment history
· Your medical history (whether you take any medications, prior injuries)
· How your worker’s compensation injury occurred (current symptoms or pain)
· How your injury has limited your normal activities (during and outside of work)
NOTE: If your work-related injury is of a psychological nature, be aware that the insurance attorney has the right to ask very personal questions. They might ask about any previous therapy, problems in your social life, or about the mental health of your friends and family members. And be prepared for the deposition to go on for a while.
We recommend writing some of your answers in advance to help refresh your memory during the deposition. List your previous employers, past medications and medical providers, previous injuries, and any other important information you don’t want to forget on the day of.
Who to trust
The internet is swarming with information on how to best prepare for a workers’ compensation deposition (this post included). There exists a myriad of YouTube videos and online resources. But ultimately, your most trusted ally and experienced informant is your personal attorney.
A good workers’ comp attorney can help prepare you for your deposition and walk you through the procedure step-by-step. During the deposition, they can object to illegal questions, identify misleading or ambiguous phrasing, and ensure you give compelling, credible testimony.
You are entitled to quality legal help and support. Being interviewed by a lawyer, even if it’s not on NCIS, can be overwhelming. And many would not want to go it alone. Know that Barsoum Law is here to support you and protect your interests throughout the entire filing process. We offer a personal focus and individualized care that large corporate firms do not. And our multilingual, multicultural team is dedicated to making sure you obtain the compensation you deserve.
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness, Barsoum Law can and will help. We have represented thousands of injured workers throughout California the past 25 years. Contact us today at 877-299-1555 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.