Adjuster Depositions - Do's and Don'ts

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As an adjuster in a workers’ compensation matter, giving a deposition to claimant’s counsel is usually the last thing an adjuster looks forward to doing or has time to do. The day to day rigors of claims adjusting are enough, i.e. making sure medical care is proceeding, issuing indemnity payments, attending mediations, and performing other necessary case handling. However, if your deposition is requested by claimant’s counsel, how should you prepare and what do you need to know for the deposition itself?

DO: Thoroughly review your file, especially regarding issues contained in any pending petition for benefits. Your deposition will likely focus on issues surrounding the benefits requested in that petition for benefits, though that is no guarantee, and especially whether the medical benefit was authorized and when, and whether the indemnity benefit requested has been paid and when. You may be wondering, why are those questions asked? Claimant’s counsel is likely trying to pin the carrier down on its position on a benefit, compensable body parts, etc. such that the employer/carrier may be estopped from taking an alternative position at a later time. It could also mean claimant’s counsel is seeking an employer/carrier paid fee if one of those requested benefits is denied or if the petition for benefits is not answered within 30 days of its filing, and the benefit is ultimately provided. Bottom line, it is always good to know your file as thoroughly as possible prior to your deposition.

DO: Always have a pre-deposition conference with your attorney. This helps to narrow the likely issues which will be addressed, anticipates potential questions, and assists you in how to best answer the deposition questions posed to you.

DON’T: Answer anything more than the question posed asks you. If it is a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer, answer “yes” or “no”. Don’t explain. If claimant’s counsel wants more detailed information, he/she will ask. If further explanation is necessary on the employer/carrier’s part, your attorney can address such upon cross-examination.

DON’T: Speculate. If claimant’s counsel asks a “what if” question, how do you respond? What if the treating doctor recommends pain management, will you authorize it? What if the claimant has not returned to work earning 80% of his/her average weekly wage, will you pay temporary partial disability benefits? Best answer to these questions: I can’t answer that question at this time, as I would be speculating without having all the proper information. Bottom line: Never answer a question for which you are not sure of the answer and never speculate as to an answer, as your answer may be used as a sword against you later.

DON’T: Answer questions posed to you if your attorney has stated an objection to the question. Once the objection is posed, if the objection is based on a privilege such as attorney-client privilege or work product privilege, you will likely be instructed not to answer. However, for other objections, such as relevance, compound question, etc., you may be instructed to go ahead and answer. Either way, your attorney should instruct you whether answering the question, as posed, is appropriate.

These are just some of the basic dos and don’ts of an adjuster deposition. Basically, you need to know the specific nuances that your case may have by thoroughly reviewing your file, be prepared for the likely questions as much as possible, and hold a pre-deposition conference with your attorney.

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