When you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury or work-related condition, the process often involves a deposition. A deposition is an opportunity for the attorneys representing your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier to ask you questions about your injury or illness, your treatment, your impairment, and other matters related to your claim. It’s normal to be nervous about sitting for a deposition, but knowing a few things beforehand and preparing with your attorney can help you feel more comfortable.
What Is a Deposition?
In most legal proceedings, the parties exchange evidence in support of their claims and defenses. In a workers’ comp case, this evidence can be in the form of documents (like medical bills, photographs, and other written records), physical evidence (like a tool that caused an injury), or testimony (sworn statements by the parties and witnesses). During a deposition, the person being questioned (called the “deponent”) responds to questions from an attorney for another party in the case. Just like in court, the statements the deponent makes are under oath; they are recorded verbatim by a court reporter and can be introduced into evidence later in your case. You should understand that everything you say on the record will become part of your case. Your attorney will advise you how you should dress for your deposition.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
Not only will an attorney help you prepare for a deposition, but they will also be your advocate during the questioning. Just like in court, your attorney may object to some questions that you are asked; sometimes, you may be directed to answer them over objection and other times not to answer. After the attorney for the insurance company has finished asking you questions, your attorney will ask you additional questions to clarify your answers, explain potentially problematic responses, or dig deeper into areas that are relevant to your claim. Your attorney may also introduce additional documentary evidence to support your testimony.
Before the Deposition
Your attorney will want to meet with you a day or two before your deposition to prepare you for the questioning process. He or she will review documents related to your case such as your medical bills, journals, accident reports, timelines, etc. with you and may have “question-and-answer” practice to prepare you for how it feels to be in a deposition session. During your actual deposition, you will likely be asked if you looked at any documents or otherwise prepared for your deposition; you should be truthful, but you should not reveal any of the discussions you have had with your attorney during that meeting, which are confidential.
During the Deposition
Because a court reporter is recording your deposition, it isn’t like a typical interview or conversation. It’s important that you wait until each question is finished before you start to answer; this helps the reporter accurately transcribe the exchange and also allows your attorney to lodge any objections he or she might have to the question before you answer. Answer questions as briefly and directly as possible, without volunteering additional information or explaining; if you do not know an answer, do not guess, estimate, or speculate. If a question calls for a yes or no answer, do not use expressions like “uh huh” or “uh-uh” or nonverbal gestures like nodding or shaking your head.
If you feel like you need to discuss something with your attorney or otherwise take a break—even just to compose yourself or collect your thoughts for a few minutes—just ask. As long as there’s not a question pending, this will normally be fine, and it can help keep your emotions under control during an experience that can be stressful. Depositions usually only last a few hours, but for a very complex case, you may be there long enough to take meal breaks or have to schedule another day for additional testimony.
After the Deposition
A few days after the deposition, the reporter will send a copy of the transcript for you to review for errors. This isn’t a chance to change your testimony, but rather to correct errors like the spelling of names or other miscommunications (your doctor’s name is “Jenny Smith” rather than the transcription’s identification as “Jane Smith,” for example). Once the deposition process is finished, your attorney will evaluate and discuss the best options to resolve your workers’ comp claim through settlement, mediation, or litigation.
Nicholas Platt at The Platt Law Firm will be your advocate through the entire workers’ comp process, from filing your claim through negotiating a resolution. We will fight for just compensation for your workplace injuries and help you navigate the Iowa workers’ compensation system. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.