How an Employment Deposition Works
Employment depositions are essential components of lawsuits involving workers’ compensation claims and other forms of work-related disability. If you only want to know how to prepare for and act while giving an employment deposition, skip down to the section titled “Employment Depositions Are Not Movie Scenes.”
Columbus, Ohio employment attorneys for an injured or ill employee, the employer, and the disability benefits program will schedule depositions to create official records of what each person involved in the case knows about what happened. This session operates differently from recorded statements made for insurance purposes and from witness testimony during court hearings. Listing all the unique features of each situation in which plaintiffs and defendants in an employment and/or disability lawsuit are called to testify is well beyond the scope of this brief blog post. What is most important to understand upfront about a deposition is that the person answering questions has the undeniable right to counsel and representation from a Columbus employment attorney before, during, and after the proceeding. Exercising those rights is essential to ensuring that one’s rights and interests are fully protected.
Where, When, and Why Employment Depositions Are Held
Depositions are given months before any trial is scheduled. The sessions almost always take place in a conference room at the offices of one of the law firm’s handling the case. When a person who must be deposed—who is referred to in legal documents as the deponent—cannot travel, special provisions can be made for holding a deposition in the person’s home or at a hospital.
The person being deposed can appear with his or her lawyer. Attorneys for the employer and any third parties involved, like Ohio Workers’ Compensation or the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, will also attend.
As mentioned above, the purpose of a deposition is to fully record the facts of the case as the people involved know and remember them. Because different people possess different knowledge and see events from different perspectives, deponents often give widely divergent accounts of what happened, why things happened that way, and what the outcomes of the event were. Going to trial resolves such discrepancies by seeking a ruling from a judge or jury.
What Happens During an Employment Deposition
A court-certified recorder types out everything said during an employment deposition. Audio and video recordings of the session may also be made. An official transcript is produced within days or weeks of the deposition, and that document is delivered to each plaintiff and defendant.
The legal team for the other side asks questions of the deponent. In other words, the defense team deposes the plaintiff and his or her witnesses. Asking all the relevant questions of one person may take less than hour or several days. Each deponent will be told well beforehand how long his or her deposition will take.
Employment Depositions Are Not Movie Scenes
During an employment deposition, the deponent is under oath but not on the witness stand. There are no judges to rule on objections – and shocking surprises do not occur. The entire process exists only to gather facts and, while questions are not shared with the deponent, the person answering questions will arrive with a very good understanding of what he or she will be asked. Deponents only have limited rights to avoid answering questions by invoking Fifth Amendment protections.
To unpack some of that, consider what a deponent can expect to be asked during a deposition for a workers’ comp case. At a minimum, the employer’s and program’s attorneys will want to know
- The plaintiff’s job title and duties at the time that the injury or illness disabled him or her
- The plaintiff’s work history
- What the plaintiff saw and experienced during the event that caused the injury or illness
- The plaintiff’s activities outside of work that could have caused the injury or illness
- The plaintiff’s relevant medical history
- The types and extent of any claimed disabilities
- Current treatments and prognosis related to the injury or illness that gave rise to the disability case
The attorneys asking questions are allowed to act somewhat aggressively and to say things that no judge would let stand in a courtroom. When such things happen, the plaintiff’s employment lawyer can state objections. Raising an objection, however, does not relieve the deponent of the duty to answer the question. A judge will decide at a later date whether an objection to a deposition question makes the deponent’s answer inadmissible as evidence.
Refusing to answer questions during an employment deposition can create civil and criminal liability for obstructing a legal proceeding. Knowingly giving false answers can make the deponent subject to perjury charges.
Because an employment deposition can be so intense and carries such legal weight, preparing with one’s own lawyer beforehand is imperative. Preparations can include reading through accident reports, reviewing medical records, and talking through answers to likely questions to minimize omissions and contradictions from previous accounts.
While sitting for the deposition, the most important things to do are
- Stay calm
- Listen to each question carefully and ask for clarifications when it is unclear what information is being requested
- Take time to collect your thoughts before answering
- Remain consistent
- Keep answers short and factual
- Do not add details no one has asked about
- Resist invitations to speculate on causes, outcomes, or the actions of other people; state only what you are sure of
How Employment Depositions Are Used
Employment deposition transcripts are entered into evidence and reviewed by legal teams and the judge handling the case. They can be used to reach a settlement before trial or used as checks against testimony given during trial. Differences between a transcript and what a witness says in court can go a long way toward deciding a case for the plaintiff or defendant.
Anyone called to sit for an employment deposition owes it to him or herself to hire an employment attorney to offer advice and representation. Let the legal team at the Columbus, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman know if we can help. Connect with us online or call (800) 678-3318.