Tips for Physician AMA Guides Depositions: Fear Not and Go Forward in Knowledge

So you’ve received a deposition from an attorney regarding a patient in your workers’ comp practice. Fortunately for you, you’ve read a few of our blog posts regarding depositions and what to do if you receive one. That means you’re all set, and the process is going to go off without a hitch, right?
In a perfect world, it would. But since the world is not perfect, we have the opportunity to be constantly improving, which is why we’ve written these additional tips for physicians who have received a deposition.

Note: If you’re a physician who’s received a deposition and would like to know why you received one to begin with, visit our previous blog posts titled “Why is an Attorney Asking Me for a Deposition?” and “Depositions in Workers’ Comp.” And for more details on the topic discussed in this post, check out our podcast featuring RateFast founder and CEO, Dr. John Alchemy.

Tip #1: Show your work!

The end of the workers’ comp claim is marked by the calculation of the injured worker’s WPI (Whole Person Impairment), which is determined by plugging in the effect of the injury on the patient’s ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). Assuming that the ADLs were collected accurately, the WPI should accurately reflect the data that is collected. The more sound the data, the more accurate the WPI will be, assuming that the calculations were done correctly.
One major reason for a deposition is that the insurer suspects that the WPI, or the ADLs that were plugged in to calculate the WPI, may not be accurate or consistent. If you’ve been deposed, but you have all of this information handy, it’s best to have this information prepared. We know that it’s difficult for doctors to collect all of the required data for a perfect impairment report, which is the root-concern of so many problems in the workers’ comp system. Not having a comprehensive rundown of each of the ADLs isn’t necessarily an indictment on the claim, but the more that you have, the more compelling your case will be.
In California, an Almaraz-Guzman alternative rating happens when the doctor has calculated the standard “Four Corners” WPI, and determines that the whole person impairment does not adequately reflect the functional loss. A word of advice, be ready to have a well reasoned story of an alternative rating is being suggested.

Tip #2: Be humble

Humans are emotional creatures, and as such, interactions between humans can determine the outcome of certain events, even in the professional sphere. When an attorney and a physician speak to one another, you have two professionals who have done a tremendous amount of work to achieve their title. We believe this is especially so for workers’ comp physicians.
So when an attorney sends a deposition to the physician, there is potential for either party to let the pride in their work step in front of what could otherwise be a very clear and professional conversation. Humility is key.
If you’ve never received a deposition before, take it as a learning opportunity. Keep an open mind about your rating and the calculations, or open to the consideration that some data may be incomplete or missing. Stay educational and prepared to learn.
Keep in mind that meeting with a stakeholder’s lawyer is the first of potentially several meetings that can stretch out for quite some time. That’s why first impressions, and any impressions thereafter, are important for all parties involved.
  • The deposition is a result of a misunderstanding, not an indictment of your work quality.

Tip #3: Have your own attorney

If you’ve been deposed, that means that the adjuster and the injured worker are likely already working with attorneys regarding the claim. While workers’ compensation claims require the cooperation of the stakeholders, depositions introduce a dynamic that’s best handled between legal representatives. There are many different reasons that a physician would want legal representation as well. Reasons for representation would include having a representative with you to better communicate with the attorneys on legal questions and objections, provide guidance on any intellectual property that the physician may have employed in the rating. This would include any proprietary methods or data organizational approaches that are otherwise protected under copyright law. Finally, if the atmosphere turns contentious or a negative, the physician attorney can step in and be an advocate for resolving the conflict or helping the parties agree to a resolution. A physician deponent can rarely go wrong bringing their own representation to a deposition.

Conclusion

If  we were to boil down the reasons that an attorney would hand a physician a deposition, one could say that it revolves around the question “Why was this impairment report your opinion?” Depositions are not intended to be punitive or a negative experience, rather it is intended for clarification. The physician job is to provide that clarification to the best of your ability, and for the best outcome consider our tips above.

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