In workers’ compensation claims, one significant factor that can significantly influence the outcome is injured employees’ depositions: recorded, out-of-court testimonies given by a witness under oath.
During a worker’s compensation deposition, the injured worker will be asked to provide their account of the incident, details of their injuries, and any relevant information that can help both sides involved understand the worker’s comp case better.
We’ll detail the process and provide helpful tips to help you confidently handle your deposition.
What Is the Purpose of a Workers Compensation Deposition?
First and foremost, the deposition allows the attorneys representing the injured worker and the insurance company to gather information and evidence about the case. This evidence can help them better understand the circumstances surrounding the injury and assess the strength and weaknesses of their respective positions.
Secondly, it’s an opportunity for the witness– typically the injured worker– to provide testimony under oath, which serves as a record of the witness’s account of events and can be used later in the case if necessary. It preserves the witness’s testimony if you become unavailable or their recollection of events changes over time.
By having a record of their testimony, both sides can ensure that the witness’s account remains consistent throughout the worker’s compensation case.
Finally, the deposition process can also help interested parties identify any inconsistencies or discrepancies in their respective cases, which can lead to settlements or other resolutions without needing a trial.
How Depositions Work
In a workers’ compensation deposition, several people are typically involved, including:
- The claimant (injured worker)
- The claimant’s attorney
- The attorney representing the employer or their insurance company (opposing counsel)
- Court reporters who record the proceedings
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the deposition process:
- Scheduling the deposition: Once the need for a deposition has been identified, the involved parties or their attorneys will coordinate to schedule the deposition. The deposition typically occurs in an informal setting, like a conference room at a law office or neutral location. Sometimes, remote depositions may also be conducted using video conferencing technology.
- Preparing for the deposition: Before the actual deposition takes place, the injured worker should prepare for it with the assistance of their attorney or lawyer. This preparation may involve reviewing relevant documents, medical records, and background information. The attorney may also conduct a practice session to help the injured worker become familiar with the types of questions that may be asked during the deposition.
- The deposition begins: On the day of the deposition hearing, the witness (injured worker) will be sworn in by the court reporter. As the witness answers questions, the court reporter must create an accurate written transcript, including all questions asked and answers provided.
- Questioning by the defense attorney: The defense attorney, representing the insurance company, will ask the witness a series of deposition questions. The witness must answer questions honestly and to the best of their ability. The opposing attorney may ask questions related to the injured worker’s personal background, the circumstances of the injury, medical treatment received, medical history, and the impact of the injury on their daily life.
- Cross-examination by the injured worker’s lawyer: Once the defense attorney has finished their line of questioning, the injured worker’s attorney may also ask questions to clarify or expand upon the witness’s testimony. This is an opportunity for the attorney to address any inconsistencies or gaps in the testimony.
- Reviewing and finalizing the transcript: The court reporter will prepare a written transcript after the deposition hearing. The witness and their attorney will have a chance to review the transcript for any errors or omissions before it is finalized.
The deposition is conducted under oath, and any false statements made can have serious consequences, including criminal penalties for perjury. Thus, it is crucial to answer questions truthfully and to the best of your knowledge.
How to Prepare for the Deposition
Proper preparation is vital for an injured worker to have a successful deposition in their worker’s compensation case.
Below are some steps to help you prepare for your worker’s compensation deposition:
- Consult with your attorney: Your lawyer will be your most valuable resource during the deposition. They can help you understand the purpose of the deposition, the types of questions you may be asked, and the best way to answer truthfully. They may also provide guidance on any potential legal issues that could arise during the deposition.
- Review relevant documents: Before the deposition, take the time to review any relevant documents, including medical records, accident reports, and any other materials that pertain to your worker’s compensation case. Familiarizing yourself with these documents can help ensure that you provide accurate and consistent testimony during the deposition.
- Understand your medical history: Your medical history will be a topic of discussion during the deposition, so you should be well-versed in your medical history, including prior injuries, treatments, and any pre-existing medical condition you might have. If privacy is a concern, rest assured that only the named parties– the injured worker, the injured worker’s attorney, and the lawyer representing the insurance company– will have access to this confidential information.
- Practice answering questions: Your lawyer may conduct a mock deposition session to help you become comfortable with cross-examination. This practice session can help you learn how to answer questions effectively, remain calm under pressure, and maintain your composure during the deposition.
Tips for a Successful Deposition
To make the most of your worker’s comp deposition, follow these practical tips:
Be Honest and Accurate
Always tell the truth during your deposition. Providing false or misleading information can damage your credibility and harm your case.
Remember that if you’re unsure about an answer or can’t recall specific details, it’s better to admit that you don’t know or don’t remember rather than guessing or making something up.
Finally, maintain eye contact, as it is a nonverbal cue that you’re telling the truth.
Dress professionally and conservatively, as you would for a job interview or important business meeting. You should dress in business casual attire, but you do not need to wear a suit. Your appearance can influence how others perceive you and impact your credibility.
Listen Carefully to the Questions
Pay close attention to each question and ensure you understand it before responding. If you need help to understand a question, ask for clarification. Additionally, you should answer only the question asked without providing additional information that wasn’t requested.
Don’t Volunteer Information
As you answer, stick to the facts and keep your answers concise. Offering unsolicited information or elaborating unnecessarily can provide the opposing attorney with new avenues to explore or potential weaknesses to exploit.
Take Your Time When Answering
Don’t rush your responses. Give yourself a moment to think before answering each question. This helps ensure that your testimony is accurate, thoughtful, and straightforward.
Speak Clearly and Confidently
Articulate your answers clearly and confidently, making it easier for the court reporter to transcribe your witness testimony accurately.
Avoid Arguing With Opposing Counsel
During the deposition, you may face challenging or seemingly hostile questions from the opposing counsel.
Maintain your composure and avoid getting into arguments. If you disagree with a question or feel that it’s inappropriate, your attorney will handle it by objecting.
Request Breaks When Necessary
Giving your deposition testimony in a workers comp case can take several hours. Don’t hesitate to request a break if you feel overwhelmed or need a moment to collect your thoughts.
It’s essential to remain composed and focused during your deposition, and taking breaks when needed can help you achieve that.
What Happens After the Worker’s Compensation Deposition?
Once the deposition has concluded, several steps may follow, depending on the case’s progress:
- Transcript review and corrections: The court reporter will create a written transcript of the entire recorded session. Both parties can review the transcript for accuracy and make any necessary corrections before the trial begins, as some workers’ comp cases escalate to that point.
- Further investigation or discovery: In some cases, the deposition may reveal new information or raise additional questions that require further discovery. The attorneys representing the injured worker and the insurance company may need to gather more information, depose other witnesses, or request supplemental documents to clarify any outstanding issues.
- Adverse Medical Evaluations: Following the deposition, the injured employee may be asked to attend an adverse medical evaluation on behalf of the employer and insurer. The deposition transcript is often provided to the medical professional performing the adverse medical evaluation as background or foundation for their opinions.
- Settlement negotiations: Often, testimony from an injured employee can serve as a basis for settlement negotiations, particularly if it reveals weaknesses in either side’s case. As such, they may be more inclined to negotiate a settlement to avoid the risk and expense of going to trial.
- Pre-trial motions and hearings: If the case proceeds toward trial, the attorneys may file pre-trial motions and attend motion hearings to address any legal or procedural issues that may arise before the court date.
- Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. The witnesses’ testimony can be used during the trial, particularly if they cannot testify in person.
- Appeal: Depending on the trial’s outcome, either party may choose to appeal the decision. The deposition transcript can play a role in the appeal process, as it may be used to support or challenge the trial court’s findings or rulings.
Remember that the specific timeline can vary depending on the circumstances of each worker’s compensation case. Stay informed by working closely with your attorney, as they’ll pursue the best possible outcome for your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about depositions in workers’ compensation cases:
What should you not say during a workers comp deposition?
The key to a successful deposition is keeping your answers short but truthful.
Avoid answering with unnecessary details, volunteering information that has not been requested, or speculating or guessing when answering questions. Always speak truthfully and to the best of your knowledge.
Is a workers comp deposition a good thing?
A deposition can be a beneficial aspect of a worker’s compensation case. It helps those involved gather important information, assess their respective positions, and potentially resolve your worker’s comp benefits without going to trial.
How do you know if your deposition went well?
A successful deposition is one where the injured worker provides clear, concise, and truthful answers to questions, stays calm and composed, and effectively communicates their account of the events leading to the injury.
Your attorney can help assess how well the deposition went and identify any areas of witness testimony that may need improvement or follow-up.
A worker’s comp deposition can be a stressful thing. You don’t have to answer every question perfectly. You just have to come across as truthful and credible, and that will be a win.
Contact Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. for a free consultation and no-obligation case evaluation. The knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. take the time with each client to help determine which benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act you are entitled to and discuss PERA Duty Disability benefits and Healthcare Continuation Benefits under Minnesota Statute §299A.465. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.