Employers hate workers’ compensation claims and they will do anything possible to minimize what they have to pay.
Even if you have been a valued employer for 20 years, won employee of the year and are on a first name basis with the company owner and his/her family, everything changes when you file a workers compensation claim.
Business owners have been conditioned by insurance companies to assume that injured workers exaggerate their claims and that injured workers and their lawyers are looking for an unjustified financial windfall. Consider the terms used by insurance companies to talk about workplace injury claims: “risk management,” “claim management,” “loss prevention.”
Even if your employer has been reasonable in the days immediately following your injury, you should not assume that their insurance company or the insurance company lawyers (with whom you have no relationship) will treat you with respect or fairness.
I Previously Worked as an Insurance Defense Lawyer
My first job out of law school was as an associate attorney for a large insurance defense law firm in Atlanta. I was taught to be suspicious about every work injury claim and to use the law to direct injured workers to doctors dependent on and friendly to insurance companies.
I was also taught to attack an injured workers’ credibility at depositions and at hearings and I see these same tactics used today.
So, how do you protect yourself?
Protecting Yourself from Trick Questions
First, you should not take on the insurance company and their lawyers on your own. Obviously, I am workers’ compensation lawyer who represents injured workers, but even if you choose another lawyer, I strongly recommend that you not go into this battle alone.
An experienced lawyer will prepare you for deposition or hearing testimony and practice asking and answering questions. You will learn how to be accurate and precise when giving answers and you will learn to avoid trap questions.
Second, you need to understand that insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers use depositions and hearings to attack your credibility and honesty. For example, they will ask you about past arrests or about past use of marijuana or alcohol. These issues may be totally irrelevant to your work injury case but if you are embarrassed or fearful and you lie or give inaccurate information, those inaccurate statements will be used to undermine everything else that you say.
They will ask you about past injury claims and imply that this current injury is not really new at all, and they will focus on any financial recovery to imply that you are only out for money.
Your lawyer will help you stay on track and not be intimidated or manipulated. You will be reassured by having a trusted advocate sitting next to you.
Finally, remember that even the strongest cases have some weaknesses. Often, these weaknesses – like the existence of a prior injury, or a past DUI arrest – have little or nothing to do with the injury you experienced at work. Your lawyer can help you avoid distractions and keep your focus on this particular injury and your need for quality medical care to regain your health.