If you are injured while on the job and file a workers’ compensation claim, you should prepare yourself for having your deposition taken. Although it may seem scary, once you know what to expect and what mistakes to avoid at your workers’ compensation deposition, you will feel far more confident.
Florida Workers’ Compensation
Before we look more closely at what to expect at a deposition, it may be useful to get an overview of the worker’s compensation (also known as “worker’s comp” or “workman’s compensation”) process as a whole.
How does it work and what can you expect if you have to file a claim? Although we will provide some general information here, a Florida worker’s compensation attorney is your best resource for accurate information about your particular situation.
Let’s begin with the purpose of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage that is purchased by an employer to cover certain costs in the event that an employee is injured or dies or incurs a job-related illness.
For covered claims, workers’ compensation can pay for all reasonable and necessary costs associated with an employee injury, death or illness, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Legal fees
Like most states, Florida requires almost all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. While the law generally applies only to businesses that have 4 or more employees, some industries, like agriculture and construction, are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance due to the dangerous nature of the industry itself.
If an employer carries workers’ compensation, with very few exceptions, an injured employee must use the workers’ compensation program to receive compensation for his injury/illness. In other words, an injured employee does not have the option to sue his employer for his injuries.
Also, if an injured employee does file a workers’ compensation claim, although he must show that the injury was work-related, he does not need to prove that the employer’s negligence caused the injury.
How Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Process Works
If you are injured at work or suffer a work-related illness, you have only 30 days to report your injury/illness to your employer.
After an injured worker reports his injury to his employer, the employer has only seven days to report the injury to its insurance carrier. The insurance company will then decide whether to grant or deny the claim.
In the event the workers’ compensation claim for benefits is denied, a petition seeking benefits on behalf of the worker will be filed by a Florida workers’ compensation attorney.
After the petition is filed, within a certain amount of time (130 days) the matter will be scheduled for mediation. Mediation is a dispute resolution tool used to resolve cases informally. It helps to reduce the burden of litigation on the courts by settling cases without having to go to trial. Mediation is generally conducted by a mediator (who can be an attorney or judge) who attempts to get both sides to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the matter.
If mediation fails, the case will be scheduled for a hearing to be held before a judge with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC). During this time, before the hearing date, both sides are allowed to conduct “discovery.”
Discovery is a legal procedure that allows both sides to a dispute to “discover” the evidence the other intends to use at trial (or, in this case, at an administrative hearing). As part of the discovery process, the opposing party may obtain any relevant documents and may take the employee’s deposition (discussed more fully below).
If the matter does not settle before the hearing, the administrative hearing will be held and the administrative law judge will issue a Final Order. In the event the Final Order continues to deny benefits, the employee may want to consult with a Florida workers’ compensation lawyer to determine whether appealing the decision would be appropriate.
What to Expect, and Mistakes to Avoid, at Your Worker’s Compensation Deposition
If mediation fails and your matter moves into the discovery phase, it is important to be aware that the opposing party (i.e., the insurance company) will in all probability take your deposition.
A deposition is oral testimony given under oath but outside of court. They are generally conducted in a setting like an attorney’s office and are not as formal as courtroom examinations. Nevertheless, the testimony given —which will be in response to a series of questions asked by the lawyers for both sides —is given under oath and carries the same penalties of perjury as if it were being given in a courtroom.
Therefore, while you can expect the setting to be more informal, you must remain aware that your responses to the questions posed by your employer’s attorney are subject to the penalties of perjury. You can expect to have your Florida workers’ compensation lawyer with you. You should also expect to be sworn in by a court reporter and to have your testimony recorded by the court reporter, and, in some instances, videotaped.
The party who scheduled the deposition (e.g., the employer’s attorney) will ask questions first. After they have finished, if your Florida workers’ compensation attorney feels it is necessary, he may then ask you questions as well.
You will be asked about your injury (the how, when, and where) and any medical treatment you received. You will also be asked about any previous injuries or medical conditions you may have had.
Some mistakes to avoid making at your deposition include exaggerating your injuries or not telling the truth. Always tell the truth. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because you may subject yourself to prosecution for perjury if you do not. At the very least, any inconsistencies in your testimony will be used against you at the hearing. So tell the truth. Don’t exaggerate your injuries but don’t understate the damage you suffered either.
Another mistake to avoid is not preparing for your deposition. While they may be informal, depositions are critical to your case. Take the time to refresh your memory by reading all documents and evidence related to the case. You want your testimony to be as accurate as possible. Uncertain or constantly changing or correcting your answers will reflect badly on your credibility.
Your workers’ compensation deposition is an important part of your case. Work with your Florida workers’ compensation attorney to prepare so you can present your side of the story in the strongest possible light.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Florida
Our attorneys are here to right wrongs and help injured individuals obtain the legal redress and compensation they deserve. Contact us here or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.