Understanding Depositions In A California Worker’s Compensation Case

Depositions In A California Worker’s Compensation

Depositions in a worker’s compensation case are legal proceedings that occur outside the courtroom before trial. During the proceeding, the injured worker will answer questions under oath regarding the facts surrounding their case.

The defense attorney acting on behalf of the employer’s insurance company will conduct the deposition while the court reporter takes down the testimony creating a transcript that all parties will have access to. Both parties are permitted to have representation during the deposition.  It is important to note that a defense attorney may only take a single deposition from an injured worker.

A deposition transcript serves two purposes:

  • The transcript is reviewed by a medical professional to evaluate if the injury constitutes a permanent disability.
  • The transcript ensures that an injured worker’s story remains consistent.

Through the course of a worker’s compensation case, a Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME) or an Agreed Medical Evaluator (AME) may also be deposed to answer questions regarding a doctor’s report.

Understanding Depositions

In its simplest terms, a deposition refers to questioning an individual, under penalty of perjury, outside a courtroom setting.

When it comes to California worker’s compensation cases, the injured party’s deposition is perhaps most important. Aside from medical reports, the deposition offers the best way for an insurance company to gain insight into the injury and the circumstances surrounding it.

Both sides are entitled to take depositions in a worker’s comp case. Therefore, both the defendant’s insurance company and the attorney for the injured worker may question a witness under oath before a trial. Common witnesses include co-workers, managers, or supervisors. In cases related to wrongful death, surviving relatives will be deposed.

When it comes to most California worker’s comp claims, witnesses are rarely deposed.

Because doctors don’t testify in a trial, a doctor’s testimony is secured through deposition and the transcript becomes evidence in a trial.

Before an injured worker’s deposition can occur, an Application for Adjudication of Claim must be filed by either party, as noted in Yee-Sanchez v. Permanente Medical Group. This application is part of a worker’s comp benefits claim.

Why a Deposition is Important in a Worker’s Comp Claim

The purpose of deposing the injured worker in a worker’s comp claim is to:

  • obtain more information surrounding the claim
  • garner specific information needed for a thorough investigation, such as times, dates, and witness information
  • compare testimony with other sources

According to California Labor Code, When an insurance company deposes the injured worker, that worker is automatically entitled to the following:

  • any transportation, meal, or lodging reimbursement when applicable
  • lost wages reimbursement associated with their attendance
  • a deposition transcript
  • an interpreter, when applicable
  • fees associated with attorney representation during the deposition

An injured worker who refuses to participate in the deposition can have their claim suspended.

What to Expect from a Worker’s Compensation Deposition

An injured worker seeking compensation will be given notice regarding the deposition that will indicate the date, time, and location of a scheduled proceeding. Typically it occurs at the office of the insurance company’s attorney.

As the injured worker, you will be asked to swear in and agree to be truthful. If you lie in a deposition you may be charged with perjury and the punishment is either a fine or jail time. It is essentially no different than courtroom testimony.

Although employers are permitted to have a representative attend the deposition, they are only permitted to observe and cannot participate. However, if the injured employee can show that having an employee representative on hand will cause them some sort of undue harm, they can petition to exclude the employee representative from the proceeding.

A deposition can go on for less than an hour or last all day, based on the nature of the worker’s injury and the insurance company’s overall strategy. An injured worker is entitled to a break whenever they wish during the deposition.

Questions to Expect in a Worker’s Compensation Deposition

While the scope of questions may be broad, they are limited to whether or not they can reasonably assist in the evaluation of the case, prepare for trial, or facilitate a settlement, according to case law

An injured worker can expect to be asked deposition questions related to the following:

  • basic personal information
  • injury details
  • employment history
  • medical history (including information about prior injuries)
  • modified or light-duty work
  • information about medical treatment
  • job history
  • any current complaints
  • questions regarding independent contractor status
  • questions about job termination
  • information regarding their immigration status
  • any other relevant information

Based on the testimony, an insurance company’s attorney can access records regarding work and medical history. When the injured worker rejects answering a deposition question, the defense attorney may ask a judge to compel the worker to answer it.

Do not assume that a defense attorney will be on your side. Any questions asked will seek to minimize the nature of your injuries or deflect blame away from the employer.  

How is the Deposition Transcript Used?

The deposition transcript will be given to a doctor who will evaluate you for temporary or permanent disability status. During an examination, a doctor will ask questions regarding the injury and any differences between the transcript and what is said in the exam can be used to harm the credibility of the injured worker.

The transcript can also be used in court if the claim ends up going to trial which means that if there is a conflict between the deposition transcript and courtroom testimony, it can seriously undermine the claim. That is why it is crucial that the injured worker always answer questions clearly, consistently, and precisely.

Deposing Doctors or Witnesses

If questions arise regarding a medical report, the doctor may be deposed and the doctor’s answers can be used at trial. Although the insurance company is required to pay for a doctor’s deposition, regardless of who requests it, the injured party must pay for the court reporter when deposing a witness, a practice that is quite rare in a California worker’s comp case.

The Importance of Depositions in a Worker’s Comp Case

The injured worker’s deposition will help determine the valuation of your claim and how strongly the case will be it will be disputed. The less an insurance company trusts the injured worker’s testimony, the more it will fight to block benefits.

That’s why the deposition is so important to the worker’s comp case.

For anyone filing a California worker’s comp claim, hiring an expert worker’s compensation lawyer is your best course of action. A worker’s comp attorney can help you complete the necessary forms, appeal denials, and even help you navigate the deposition process.

The legal team at Aoudi Law can help. We’ve helped countless workers, from firefighters and police officers to construction workers and government employees, get the compensation they deserve following a job-related injury.

Call or text 714-862-1195 today for a free consultation. Don’t go it alone. The professional California worker’s compensation attorneys at Aoudi Law are standing by to help you through this challenging process. 

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