When you’re injured at work, filing a workers’ comp claim for much-needed benefits is a must. But what if your employer isn’t exactly compliant? Sometimes, your employer will dispute your workers’ comp claim. If this happens to you, you may be called in for a deposition. A deposition is a legal procedure where you answer questions under oath. It isn’t a trial, but your answers are considered evidence if your workers’ comp case goes to court. Knowing how to prepare, conduct yourself, and answer questions could get your claim approved or denied benefits.
What to Expect at Your Deposition
Before you go to your workers’ comp deposition, you’ll need to prepare. The best way to do this is to review your own medical records — including your accident report. Familiarize yourself with the event timeline when your workplace injury happened. At the deposition, you’ll likely sit at a conference table with the insurance company’s lawyer. If you don’t already have a lawyer, consider getting one now. An attorney protects your legal rights and ensures the insurance company’s lawyer doesn’t ask inappropriate questions. Your lawyer can also help you prepare and ask follow-up questions that strengthen your case. In addition, a lawyer’s presence alone will demonstrate your commitment to securing benefits. If you need childcare during your deposition, plan to pay for a half-day with the babysitter. A deposition usually takes a couple hours — sometimes longer if you have extensive work or treatment history to cover.
Common Workers’ Comp Questions You’ll Have to Answer
Your employer’s insurance company wants to understand how your injury occurred. If your injury comes from a one-time workplace accident, your deposition will likely go faster. But if your injury’s gradual (carpal tunnel, hearing loss) or you’re filing a chronic illness/injury claim, it’ll take longer. Some common workers’ comp deposition questions include:
- Can you briefly describe your medical history?
- Which doctors provided your medical treatment to date? What treatment did they provide you with so far?
- What physical limitations do you have due to your injury/work-related illness?
- How has your injury affected your daily life?
- What restrictions has your doctor given you because of your injury/illness?
- Can you please describe your typical work duties during an 8-hour shift?
- Have you experienced any other injuries or accidents in the past?
An attorney can tell you which questions you’ll have to answer based on your specific situation. A lawyer may coach you to emphasize specific answers that strengthen your case. Just running through some potential questions can help calm your nerves before the deposition starts. In addition, the questions they ask you may seem personal or irrelevant. It’s likely some questions will try to minimize your injury’s impact. They may try to prove your injury or illness isn’t work-related at all. Most questions an insurer can ask during your deposition are not legally off-limits. However, an attorney will know which questions are irrelevant and even inappropriate. If this happens to you, having legal representation can make all the difference in proving your case.
7 Success Tips for Answering Your Case Questions
How you answer questions can be almost as important as what words you say. Your composure and presentation can go a long way towards proving your case has merit. Here are some important tips for success:
Deposition Success Tip #1: Keep Your Cool
Avoid acting belligerent, defensive, or angry — even if, at times, the questions make you feel that way. If you get flustered, don’t be afraid to ask for a break. Take a moment to clear your head, calm down with a few deep breaths, and compose yourself before moving forward.
Deposition Success Tip #2: Take Your Time
One of the best things you can do is waiting a moment before you respond. Some questions, as stated above, may be either inappropriate or irrelevant. Give your attorney enough time to object to them, if necessary. Wait to hear the entire question before you answer. And don’t be afraid to ask the insurer to clarify anything you don’t understand before you speak.
Deposition Success Tip #3: Don’t Exaggerate — But Don’t Minimize, Either
Explain all your symptoms clearly and how they impact your ability to perform work tasks. Don’t exaggerate them — and definitely don’t minimize them, either, especially your pain level. Just try to be as clear and honest about them as possible.
Deposition Success Tip #4: If You’re Not Sure, Don’t Make Things Up
The best answer to any question you’re not sure about is, “I don’t know.” Don’t make anything up. If you’re not sure, just say so. You’re better off saying you can’t recall or don’t know than making up an answer you think supports your case.
Deposition Success Tip #5: Avoid Making Any Absolute Statements
Absolute statements include words such as:
Instead, say things like:
- “Not that I recall”
- “To the best of my knowledge”
- “Not that I’m aware of”
- “In most cases”
- “As far as I know”
- “In my own experience”
These statements can help you keep your storyline consistent throughout the deposition. You’ll also avoid any accidental “gotchas” with statements that need just one example to disprove them.
Deposition Success Tip #6: Never Lie
Even if you think you have to lie in order to win your case, don’t do it. If a judge or the insurer catches you in a lie, it destroys your credibility. It also destroys your chances of winning workers’ compensation benefits. The insurance company wants to diminish your credibility and present you as untrustworthy. Be careful to only give truthful, short and direct responses.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
If you don’t have an open-and-shut workers’ comp case, then talk to a lawyer. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer vastly improves your chances for winning benefits. And if you have any pre-existing injuries, health conditions or chronic illnesses, you’re unlikely to win benefits without help. Since they all work on contingency, you won’t have to pay anything for help unless you win. Lawyers won’t take your case if they think you cannot win, but that doesn’t mean you can do it on your own. With the right lawyer on your side, you lose nothing and gain a lot!
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