Although it can be intimidating to testify in a workers’ compensation deposition, a little bit of preparation can go a long way toward putting your mind at ease and making your deposition go smoothly. In this article, we provide tips on how to prepare for, and conduct yourself during, your deposition.
Before the Deposition
Before your deposition, you should review your medical records, accident reports, journal notes, and other relevant records in your workers’ comp case. While you don’t need to have every detail memorized, you should be able to explain how your accident occurred and what your basic course of medical treatment has been so far. You should be familiar with the general timeline of events in your workers’ compensation case, including:
- the date of the accident (or, the date that you discovered you developed an occupational disease)
- your first visit to a doctor or the emergency room
- any significant medical treatments you have had, such as physical therapy, surgery, or other procedures, and
- any periods of time that you were off work, worked reduced hours, or performed light-duty work.
You should also be prepared to explain what physical limitations you have experienced since the accident and whether they have improved, stayed the same, or worsened over time. It’s especially important to be specific about your current limitations, as this can have an impact on your permanent disability award.
At the Deposition
You should arrive at the deposition early and appropriately dressed. While you don’t need to wear a formal suit, you should look presentable and neatly groomed. Business casual attire, such as a button down shirt and slacks, is usually appropriate.
During the deposition, the lawyer will ask you a series of questions about your background, the accident, your injuries, medical treatment, physical limitations, and more. (For details on what happens during a deposition, including the types of questions you might be asked, see What to Expect From a Workers' Compensation Deposition.)
When answering the lawyer’s questions, keep a few simple rules in mind:
- Be truthful. One of the most important things to remember is to be truthful. Lying at a deposition is not only a crime (because you are under oath), but it also won’t do you any favors in your workers’ compensation case. Chances are good that you will be caught, for example, because your testimony is inconsistent with your medical records, your prior statements, or even video surveillance that the insurance company has taken of you. Exaggerations will similarly destroy your credibility.
- Give verbal responses. During your deposition, a court reporter will be typing down everything that is said, in order to create a written transcript. Avoid nonverbal cues, such as nodding your head or pointing to things. For example, instead of saying “I hurt this finger” and pointing, say “I hurt my index finger on my left hand.”
- Listen to the full question. Before you jump in to answer a question, listen to the entire question and wait before answering. It may be that the question is different than you anticipated. And, the court reporter will have a hard time transcribing things if you and the lawyer are talking over each other.
- Answer the specific question asked. You may be tempted to give long-winded answers so that you can give your side of the story. But volunteering information or going into lengthy narratives can also hurt your case. If the question can be answered accurately with a “yes” or “no,” you should leave it at that.
- Don’t speculate or guess. It’s likely that at some point in your deposition, you won’t know the exact answer to the question being asked. Unless it’s a crucial detail of your case (such as where you were injured or what body part you injured), it is fine to say “I don’t know” or give an approximation. If you are unclear on the question, never guess. Ask the lawyer to repeat the question or to ask it in a different way, so that you don’t give inaccurate information.
- Behave professionally. Your deposition is an opportunity to show that you are a credible, reliable witness on your own behalf. This will show the insurance company that you’re making a legitimate claim and that you will make a good impression at a workers’ comp hearing. Be polite and respectful to everyone at the deposition, including the lawyer for the insurance company. If you feel yourself getting defensive or worked up, ask to take a short break at any time.
Before giving a deposition in your workers’ compensation case, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer in your area. Your deposition testimony will become a legal record in your case and can have a large impact what benefits you ultimately receive. A lawyer can help you prepare for tough questions and can attend the deposition with you, to make sure that no inappropriate questions are asked.