In most cases, a workers’ compensation claimant will have the opportunity to testify before a workers’ compensation judge. Naturally, your lawyer will be present and the employer’s attorney will also be there, with the judge presiding over the hearing. Also present will be a court reporter, who transcribes all testimony taken. The hearings are a little less formal than normal court proceedings. You should, however, dress with respect for the Court. When you testify, you will be given an oath to tell the truth and you therefore are expected to testify honestly. There are serious criminal penalties for committing perjury. Likewise, there are serious criminal penalties for fraud.
After you testify on direct examination, the attorney for your employer has the right to ask you questions concerning all of the facts in your case. It is therefore highly recommended that you make an appointment with your lawyer prior to the first hearing to prepare for that hearing.
Here are several things to remember when you testify:
1. If you are able, stand when the Judge enters
If you are in the room when the Judge enters, stand as a show of respect. You may be seated after she sits.
2. Listen to the question
No matter who’s asking the questions, make sure you understand the question you are about to answer. If you don’t understand, ask the questioner to rephrase.
3. Then answer the question
First and foremost, you are in court to tell your story. Tell the truth; you have nothing to hide. You must verbalize your answer. Nodding or saying “uh-huh” are not answers. Likewise, pointing to your injured knee cannot be transcribed by the court reportrer, so you must use your words to explain where you were injured or where it hurts. Keep your hands on your lap. Look at the Judge when you answer; he is the final finder of who to believe.
4. Don’t volunteer information
Stick to a succinct answer to the question. Don’t ramble. Also, don’t play into the agenda of a questioner who sits there silently as if to suggest you haven’t fully answered a question. Once. you’ve answered, stop talking.
5. Avoid hearsay
Hearsay is an effort by a witness to prove something by using someone else’s words. As an example, it’s inadmissible hearsay for an injured worker to testify that, “My doctor said my herniated disk at L4-5 was caused by my lifting at work.” Let the doctor tell that to the Judge.
6. Wait for the Judge to rule on objections
If a lawyer voices an objection, wait until the Judge permits you to continue speaking.