In some workers’ compensation cases, one of the parties (usually the injured employee) will be subject to a deposition. A deposition is a recorded meeting in which the opposing attorney asks the “deponent” questions about facts regarding the case. As per O.C.G.A. 9-11-30, almost anyone who has facts about the case can be subpoenaed and required to provide a deposition, even if they are not one of the named parties in the case. A workers’ compensation deposition in Atlanta is generally held during the discovery period of a case and has several important purposes.
The Purpose of a Deposition in a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Many people assume the only reason an employer’s attorney would ever request the claimant to provide a deposition is to discover facts that may negate the claim. Although this is partially true, the discovery of relevant facts is only part of the purpose of taking depositions.
Below are three other common reasons why an employer/insurer may take an employee’s deposition:
- To get the claimant’s testimony on record. The employer already may know certain facts about the case but may want to get the worker’s statements on record so that he or she cannot later change the story.
- To assess the employee’s credibility.
- To garner insight into the manner in which the employee responds to questions. This way, the employer’s attorney will be better prepared for a cross-examination at a formal hearing.
Essentially, a deposition is a chance for each party to gain a better understanding about the case and the opposing parties’ stances, as well as holes in their own cases and how to prepare for trial.
What to Expect at a Deposition
Depositions are not held in a courtroom. Rather, they are usually held in an attorney’s office. All interested parties and their counsel will be there, as well as a court reporter who will transcribe the deposition. The opposing attorney will ask the deponent a series of questions about the case. Generally, these questions will be a lot broader than what might be allowed in the courtroom, and you’re usually required to answer them.
A deposition is a serious matter; it is given under oath, which means that lying can bring criminal penalties. Your attorney can help you prepare for a deposition so that you are not overly anxious about the meeting.
Guidelines for Answering Questions in a Deposition
Honesty is always the best policy. If you don’t know the answer or can’t remember you need to state this to the attorney. Don’t speculate or draw your own conclusions about the facts of the matter. Instead, simply answer the questions to the best of your knowledge and ability. Don’t give more information than is asked for in the question. Keep your answers short and specific to the question that was asked.
Don’t worry about questions about your background or personal matters. These are typically only used to establish your credibility and won’t usually have anything to do with your workers’ compensation claim. These are items that can be easily found out so it doesn’t help to try to hide the truth or avoid the questions.
- Do not begin your response until the defense attorney completes his or her question. In normal conversation, we often anticipate the end of a question and, as such, begin answering it before it has been asked. This presents a couple of problems during a deposition: first, this prevents the court reporter from transcribing a clear transcript because he or she can only record one person talking at a time; and second, defense attorneys frequently formulate questions as they are speaking and sometimes change the meaning of a question by adding a word or phrase at the end of it. By pausing for a second or two after each question, you can be sure the attorney is finished and, more importantly, can formulate your answer in your head before answering out loud.
- Do not respond to a question that you don’t understand. If you answer a question, everyone will assume you understood the question; therefore, you should not answer any question if you have any doubt as to what the defense attorney is asking. When this happens, you should politely ask the defense attorney to repeat and/or rephrase the question until you understand it. For example, you could say “Would you please rephrase that question” or “I’m not sure I understand your question; could you ask it again?”
- Always give a verbal response. Court reporters take down spoken words, not hand or head gestures. So if you nod your head up and down, shake your head from side to side, or point to a body part, the court reporter cannot accurately record your response. To make sure the court reporter takes down your response, you should answer “yes” or “no” instead of nodding or shaking your head, and should should specifically identify the body part you point to. You should also avoid answering “yes or no” questions with “uh huh” or “ah huh” because even though your answer might be clear to those at the deposition, your answer will not be clear from the written transcript prepared by the court reporter.
- If you do not know an exact answer, you may give your best estimate. Defense attorneys frequently ask questions about specific dates or events that occurred a long time ago. If you don’t know the answer to one of these questions (or any other questions), you are allowed to answer “I don’t know” or “I can’t recall.” If you don’t know the exact answer to a question, but can give an estimate, then you should give an estimate and explain that you are giving an estimate to the best of your recollection; however, you should not guess at any answer under any circumstances.
- You may take a break. You may take a break to attend to your personal needs or to speak with your attorney. You may also stand up, move around, or stretch during your deposition, and you can do this during a break or during the deposition itself. For example, if your back is hurting and you want to stand while you testify, you can ask the defense attorney if he or she if you stand up. The attorney will almost always allow you to do this, and by asking for permission, the record will show that you were not able to remain seated throughout the entire deposition.
Be Prepared for the Deposition
One of the best ways to keep your composure and stay calm during a deposition is to be properly prepared in advance. Your Rome workers’ compensation attorney will help you prepare by discussing the questions with you in advance. Your lawyer is experienced and knows the types of questions that you will be asked. Review these with your lawyer so that you are ready for the deposition.
Familiarize yourself with the facts of the case before the deposition. Review your medical records and notes so that you are ready to answer some of the questions that you will be asked. Some cases can be extremely complex and you can’t be expected to remember some of the minor details so don’t worry if you are unable to remember something. Practice answering questions clearly and concisely. Speak loudly enough and maintain eye contact while providing your answer.
It is also helpful to be as clear-headed as possible during the deposition. Get to sleep early the night before and eat a meal before you go. Allow plenty of time to get there so you are not feeling rushed.
Questions to Expect
1. Identifying Information. Defense attorneys will ask you to provide a great deal of information regarding yourself, including your:
- Full Name
- Maiden Name
- Current Address
- Names of Residents at Current Address
- Addresses During Last Five Years
- Marital Status and Name of Husband or Wife
- Names of Children and Other Dependents
- Driver’s License Number
- Social Security Number
- Whether you are a citizen of the United States
- Whether you are legally able to work in the United States
- Educational History
- Criminal History
Although defense attorneys ask several questions regarding injured workers’ background and personal history, the majority of these questions are intended to elicit general information and allow the attorney to “get a feel” for the injured worker. Defense attorneys always ask injured workers whether they have been convicted of a felony, so don’t be offended if you are asked this question. You must disclose this information truthfully if asked during your deposition; therefore, you should be sure to speak with your attorney about any prior arrests or convictions before your deposition begins.
2. Previous Employment. Defense attorneys likely will ask you to provide the following information regarding your employment history:
- Names of Prior Employers
- Addresses of Prior Employers
- Dates of Prior Employment
- Job Duties with Prior Employers
- Names of Immediate Supervisors with Prior Employers
- Whether you Suffered any Injuries with Prior Employers
- Reason you Ceased Employment with Prior Employers
If you are asked about any prior on-the-job injuries, it is critical that you answer truthfully even if you had a prior on-the-job injury. And this is true even if your prior on-the-job injury was the same or similar to your current on-the-job injury. Similarly, if you were terminated by any prior employers, you must disclose any such terminations if you are asked. Defense attorneys can easily obtain your prior medical and employment records, so lying to them or failing to disclose this type of information likely will allow them to impeach you and hurt your credibility.
3. Previous Medical History. Defense attorneys usually cover your medical history very thoroughly. In so doing, they will usually ask you whether you have suffered from any of the following:
- Prior Non-Work-Related Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Work-Related Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Automobile Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Motorcycle Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Pedestrian Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Slip-and-Fall Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Sports-Related Accidents/Injuries
- Prior Military-Related Accidents/Injuries
- Chronic Medical Conditions or Diseases
- Names of Prior Medical Providers
You must disclose information regarding your past medical history if asked; therefore, if you have suffered any of the above-referenced accidents or injuries (or any others), you should speak with your attorney about them before your deposition. Insurance companies have access to computerized records of injuries reported to any insurance company, and defense attorneys generally are able to obtain prior medical records, so there is no sense in lying about your prior medical history when asked. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even if you suffered from a prior injury or medical condition, but if you lie or fail to disclose this type of information when asked, you almost certainly will hurt your chances of receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
4. Description of On-the-Job Accident. Workers’ compensation in Georgia is a “no fault” system, so, with some exceptions, the cause of your accident won’t matter too much. Your attorney should discuss your accident with you before your deposition, so if he or she does not, you should be sure to discuss this with them if you are concerned about it for any reason.
5. Medical Treatment for On-the-Job Injuries. You should be prepared to name all of the doctors who have examined or treated you for your on-the-job injury regardless of who sent you to each doctor. In addition, you should be prepared to describe the type of treatment that each doctor provided and to explain whether and how the treatment improved your condition.
6. Current Disability. Defense attorneys always ask injured workers to list and explain their symptoms, and to explain how these symptoms limit their ability to perform work of any kind. Along these lines, they will also ask injured workers to explain what types of work and non-work-related activities they could perform before their accidents but not after their accidents. Finally, they usually ask injured workers what they have been doing in the spare time since their accidents.
Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, Can Help with Your Workers’ Compensation Case
If you are running into issues with your workers’ comp benefits or have been asked to give a deposition, we encourage you to call us for counsel.
Contact one of our attorneys at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at 678-562-5595.