While there might be more in some cases, in general, there are five “ground rules” for every workers’ compensation deposition:
- Do not begin your response until the defense attorney completes his or her question. In normal conversation, we often anticipate the end of a question and, as such, begin answering it before it has been asked. This presents a couple of problems during a deposition: first, this prevents the court reporter from transcribing a clear transcript because he or she can only record one person talking at a time; and second, defense attorneys frequently formulate questions as they are speaking and sometimes change the meaning of a question by adding a word or phrase at the end of it. By pausing for a second or two after each question, you can be sure the attorney is finished and, more importantly, can formulate your answer in your head before answering out loud.
- Do not respond to a question that you don’t understand. If you answer a question, everyone will assume you understood the question; therefore, you should not answer any question if you have any doubt as to what the defense attorney is asking. When this happens, you should politely ask the defense attorney to repeat and/or rephrase the question until you understand it. For example, you could say “Would you please rephrase that question” or “I’m not sure I understand your question; could you ask it again?”
- Always give a verbal response. Court reporters take down spoken words, not hand or head gestures. So if you nod your head up and down, shake your head from side to side, or point to a body part, the court reporter cannot accurately record your response. To make sure the court reporter takes down your response, you should answer “yes” or “no” instead of nodding or shaking your head, and should should specifically identify the body part you point to. You should also avoid answering “yes or no” questions with “uh huh” or “ah huh” because even though your answer might be clear to those at the deposition, your answer will not be clear from the written transcript prepared by the court reporter.
- If you do not know an exact answer, you may give your best estimate. Defense attorneys frequently ask questions about specific dates or events that occurred a long time ago. If you don’t know the answer to one of these questions (or any other questions), you are allowed to answer “I don’t know” or “I can’t recall.” If you don’t know the exact answer to a question, but can give an estimate, then you should give an estimate and explain that you are giving an estimate to the best of your recollection; however, you should not guess at any answer under any circumstances.
- You may take a break. You may take a break to attend to your personal needs or to speak with your attorney. You may also stand up, move around, or stretch during your deposition, and you can do this during a break or during the deposition itself. For example, if your back is hurting and you want to stand while you testify, you can ask the defense attorney if he or she if you stand up. The attorney will almost always allow you to do this, and by asking for permission, the record will show that you were not able to remain seated throughout the entire deposition.