Under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act, the main means of gathering evidence comes in the form of depositions. Depositions are essentially question and answer sessions involving injured workers, employer witnesses, insurance adjusters, as well as medical providers. The purpose of depositions is to gather evidence and information that would admissible in a trial prior before a Judge of Compensation Claims.
The deposition of an injured worker is one of the most important events during the life of an individual’s workers’ compensation case. Just as the initial medical appointment with a physician is an injured worker’s first and best opportunity to make a favorable impression with the doctor, the injured worker’s Florida workers compensation deposition during the course of their case gives that individual their first and best opportunity to make a favorable impression on the insurance company. This is important because an insurance company will be less likely to attempt to engage in tactics harmful to an individual’s workers’ compensation case if the claimant has given full and accurate information during his/her deposition.
THE DEPOSITION SETTING
During the context of a Florida workers compensation deposition, the deposition room will consist of the following individuals:
- The injured worker
- His/her attorney
- The defense attorney (the attorney representing the insurance company)
- A court reporter. The court reporter is given the responsibility of transcribing the questions and answers. The court reporter will begin the deposition process by putting the injured worker under oath. The oath is an important concept in a workers’ compensation case or any other legal matter. It means the individual swears to tell the truth in response to questions posed by the defense attorney. Consequently, it is extremely important that you keep in mind the following rules prior to your deposition:
Please speak with your attorney regarding any questions you may have about the deposition process before it begins. Please go over with your attorney any questions or concerns you might have regarding past injuries, accidents, etc. The advice of our office is always the same – answer the questions fully , accurately and to the best of your recollection. Answer the questions that are posed to you. If you do not understand a question that is being asked by the defense attorney during the course of your deposition, please be sure to ask the attorney to repeat or rephrase the question. If you answer a question during the course of a workers’ compensation deposition, it will be assumed you fully understood the question and its meaning.
The following questions are typically asked during the course of a workers’ compensation deposition:
- Age, educational background, marital status, children, prior work history.
- Medical history, including general health questions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.
- Information regarding prior accidents in general such as slip and falls, sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents, etc.
- Prior workers’ compensation injuries should be discussed, even if those injuries were minor. If an accident was reported, or if medical treatment or indemnity benefits were received, that is an established workers’ compensation claim. You can assume the insurance company is aware of any and all prior workers’ compensation accidents, motor vehicle accidents, hospital admissions, doctor visits, etc. The carrier will have information regarding the nature of all of these injuries, so it is best to be sure to acknowledge the nature of the injuries and the extent of any treatment you received. A failure to do so is one of the most serious problems in a workers’ compensation case.
- Job title at the time of the accident, including information regarding salary, hours, schedule and fringe benefits.
- Job description.
- How the workers’ compensation accident happened.
- The nature of the injuries sustained, and whether there were any witnesses to the accident.
- To whom the workers’ compensation accident was reported and when.
- Where you were first sent for treatment by the employer or the workers’ compensation carrier.
- Where you have received treatment from various authorized workers’ compensation medical providers or other physicians you have seen on your own outside of the workers’ compensation system.
- Your current authorized workers’ compensation treatment including diagnostic testing, physical therapy, medications, surgeries, etc.
- Your current work status. This would include an explanation as to whether you continue to work for the employer, the number of hours per week you are working, the nature of the job you are doing at present, etc. If you are no longer working for the employer, you will be required to answer questions about whether work was offered to you within your restrictions, etc. If you are working for another employer, you will need the name of the employer, job description, and nature of your work/salary, etc.
- Questions regarding whether you have applied for unemployment or Social Security disability. Individuals who have been injured in Workers’ compensation accidents are often terminated because of an inability to perform past relevant work. Those individuals can pursue a claim for unemployment benefits. If those individuals also can demonstrate they have been unable to work for a period of 12 consecutive months as a result of injury or illness, they can qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
The deposition process is extremely significant. The testimony you provide is admissible evidence in your case. As a result, it is important that you are mentally focused in order to fully understand the question asked, and provide accurate and complete answers in response to those questions. Consequently, it is important that you avoid consuming any alcohol or drugs prior to the deposition. Additionally, even if you have been prescribed medication by an authorized physician in your workers’ compensation case, or by a licensed physician not involved in your case, it is important that you carefully consider whether or not to consume that medication prior to the deposition. If taking prescribed medication prior to the deposition will cause you to lack the ability to concentrate or focus, please avoid taking that medication. This will ensure that your vitally important deposition testimony is not affected by any side effects associated with that medication.