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What Is a Workers' Compensation Deposition in California?

During the course of a Workers' Compensation claim, it is common for the insurance company to take the injured worker's deposition.  It may sound intimidating and stressful to undergo a deposition, but with a Workers' Compensation attorney guiding you, the deposition process is less intimidating and overwhelming.

A deposition is a statement taken under oath, subject to the penalty of perjury. A court reporter records everything that is being said, and it's an opportunity for the defense attorney representing the employer's Workers Compensation insurance carrier to meet you and get some questions answered.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, many depositions have taken place remotely via a video platform such as Zoom.  Depositions also take place with everyone present in-person in a conference room.

What is a California Deposition?

What to Expect

Before the deposition, your attorney will talk to you in private and answer any and all questions you have about the process.  You'll get an understanding of what generally happens, and the types of topics that tend to be covered. Further, your attorney will give you guidance on the procedures and ground rules to make the deposition process go as smoothly as possible.

Thankfully, a Workers' Compensation deposition is seldom confrontational. It usually isn't a "cross-examination" as you may have seen on television.

The following are some ground rules for a deposition.

  • You must fully understand the question that is being asked before you respond. Ask for clarification or to have the question asked in a different way if needed.
  • Answer all the questions verbally (yes or no, rather than nodding your head), and ensure that only one person speaks at a time.
  • Only answer the question being asked. It is not an opportunity to tell a long-winded story, or to have a casual conversation.
  • Only answer if you have personal knowledge. Do not guess; but if you have some basis for estimating then you should do so. It is not a test of your memory.
  • As long as there is no question pending, you may take a break and talk to your attorney in private at any time during the deposition.
  • It is not a marathon or a race--feel free to stand up and take a break, or go to the bathroom.  It is important that you are in the best state of mind to understand all questions and answer them as you intend.
  • You will have an opportunity to review and correct your testimony. However, it is important you try to give your best testimony during the deposition. 
  • You are not permitted to have anyone else assist you with the deposition or be present in the room, other than your attorney.
  • A deposition is your best testimony as you recall from your memory; you are not allowed to look at any documents during the deposition unless they are presented to you by the attorneys.

Setting Out the Facts

The deposition is an opportunity for the insurance company to get a better understanding of the Workers' Compensation claim--how you injured yourself, and what body parts are involved.  All parties involved, including the doctor, must have accurate information as to the injur(ies) sustained, as well as relevant information including your previous medical history and prior lawsuits and motor vehicle accidents.   As part of the insurance company's discovery process and rights, they are entitled to subpoena medical records from current and past treatment.

Make sure that all your answers are as accurate as possible. Since a deposition is a legal proceeding where you have sworn to tell the truth under penalty of perjury, it is very important to be as accurate and consistent as possible.  Insurance companies may use private investigators to look into your claim, including attempts to videotape your physical activities at any time during your case. The courts have determined that such conduct is legal and is not an invasion of your privacy. 

Your Workers' Compensation attorney will be present to ensure that all questions are appropriate, and lodge any objections he/she finds necessary.  It is a fact-finding process for the insurance company, but your attorney will ensure that the process runs smoothly and that the defense attorney does not intimidate or harass you.

(This article is for general information, and not meant as specific legal advice. You should always speak with an attorney for specific legal questions.)

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