If you have a workers’ compensation claim, it’s likely that at some point you will have to testify. If you have never testified in a legal matter, it’s understandable that you will have some anxiety. Even if you have testified before, you may be anxious. Here are some tips to help put you at ease and give you an idea of what to expect.
You may be relieved to know that workers’ compensation law is less formal than many areas of law — there will be no jury; no big, imposing courtrooms. A Workers’ Compensation Judge from one of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s hearing offices will be assigned to preside over your case. If you live in the Philadelphia area, the Judge will most likely be based in Malvern, Upper Darby, Bristol, or Philadelphia.
Under normal circumstances — before the pandemic and when it is finally over — your testimony would be before the Judge at the hearing office. You would be in a small, comfortable hearing room. You may also have to testify at a deposition which would likely be held at your lawyer’s office.
However, since the pandemic started and for as long as it lasts, you will not be going to a hearing office to testify before the Judge. Instead, the Judge will hold a hearing by Skype or WebEx to observe you when you testify. The Judge may also require you to testify by deposition. (This is typically done at the beginning of your case while the testimony before the Judge is at the end.) During the pandemic, your deposition will be conducted telephonically — you will call into a conference call line.
Regardless of the circumstances under which you testify — live in front of the Judge, by video before the Judge, by deposition in your lawyer’s office, or by deposition on the phone — the format will be similar. Your lawyer will ask you questions about your job, your injury, medical treatment that you have received, your symptoms, and whether you are able to work. The insurance company lawyer will then have the opportunity to ask you questions on cross-examination. The Judge may also chime in with some questions.
Here is a list of the types of questions you can expect:
— Who is your employer? When were you hired?
— What is your position? What are your duties? What are the physical requirements of your job? What are the heaviest items that you have to lift? Do you perform your job standing up or sitting down?
— On what date did you injure yourself? What happened? What parts of your body did you injure? Did any of your co-workers witness you injure yourself?
— Did you report your injury to your supervisor? When did you do that? Did you do it in person, on the phone, or by text?
— When did you first seek medical treatment? Where did you go? Did your employer send you to this medical provider or did you decide to go there yourself? What happened at this visit? Were you taken out of work by the doctor? What restrictions were placed on you?
— After your injury, did you return to work? If you did, was it to your regular job or a modified-duty job? Same number of hours or different? Same wages or different?
— What doctors have you treated with for your injury? What types of treatment have they provided? Have you participated in physical therapy? Have you received any injections? Have you undergone surgery? Are you taking any medication?
— How do you feel physically? Do you think you have recovered from your injury? Do you feel pain? How often and does it affect your ability to function? (If you have not worked), do you think you are capable of returning to your regular job? If not, what about a light-duty job?
In addition to asking you these types of questions, your lawyer will likely ask you other questions based on your specific circumstances. For example, if you injured your back in a car accident two years before you injured your back at work, your lawyer may ask you questions about the details of the car accident and for how long you received medical treatment. The purpose of these questions would be to refute any argument by the insurance company lawyer that you never recovered from the injuries you sustained in the car accident, and that your ongoing pain and limitations are due to the car accident, not your work injury.
Or if you had a second job at the time you injured yourself, your lawyer will ask you questions about this job and whether you have continued to do this job or stopped. If your injury rendered you unable to perform your regular job as well as your second job, you will be entitled to workers’ comp. benefits based on your lost wages from both jobs.
After all the evidence in your case is presented, the Judge will write a decision. Contained in that decision will be a summary of your testimony, and most importantly, whether the Judge accepts your testimony as credible. The Judge can accept your testimony as credible in its entirety — in other words believe everything you said; reject your testimony as not credible — in other words, disbelieve everything you testified about; or accept as credible some of your testimony, and reject as not credible other parts of your testimony. An example of that would be if the Judge accepted your testimony that you injured yourself at work and were unable to do your job for a few months, but rejected your testimony that you are still disabled as a result of your on-the-job injury.
It is crucial that before you testify, your lawyer thoroughly prepares you so that your testimony is well-organized, cohesive, and persuasive. At Pearson Koutcher Law, we have prepared thousands of clients for their testimony before Judges and for their depositions. Workers’ comp. is all we do — every one of our lawyers has more than 20 years experience representing injured workers. We will make sure you are completely prepared when you testify, which will greatly enhance the chances of you winning your case. Please call us for a free, comprehensive evaluation of your case.