Under the Civil Practice Act, a party is entitled to take a deposition upon oral examination of any individual who has relevant information. In a workers’ compensation setting, this typically starts with the employee’s deposition. That is, counsel for the employer/insurer will take the deposition of the injured worker.
The Employer/Insurer’s attorney will often come with an outline of questions to ask – ie.,background information regarding medical treatment and employment history as well as details of the work accident.
While the Employer/Insurer’s counsel will often indicate that he/she is just trying to “learn about your claim” there are often other reasons he/she is taking your deposition:
1) for impeachment purposes; that is, the attorney tries to catch you in a “lie” which can later be presented to the judge at the hearing. Often, the attorney will try to get to agree to something definite – only to prove later at a hearing that what you testified to was not the complete story or truth. A typical example occurs when the defense attorney asks the injured worker if he/she has ever had back trouble – and the deponent says no, thinking that would mean significant trouble or injury, or not remembering something from long ago. Then, at the hearing, the defense attorney will bring forth prior medical records showing a complaint of back pain going way back in time. The defense attorney will use this to attack the credibility or trustworthiness of the injured worker.
2) to determine how well the injured worker will testify at a hearing. The defense attorney will make his recommendations to the insurance company, in part, based upon how well the injured worker testifies and presents him or herself in the deposition. The defense attorney will assess how honest and credible the injured worker would appear to the judge.
3) to pin the injured worker down to the relevant facts already known by the employer or insurer so that the testimony cannot be changed later.
In light of the above, it is important that the injured worker’s attorney advises and reviews the relevant information with him/her prior to any deposition. This is vital in pursuing your claim.