Workers' Compensation Law
How To Prepare for a Workers’ Compensation Hearing
A workers' compensation hearing is generally scheduled when there is a dispute over the worker's eligibility for workers' comp benefits or with the amount of benefits received.
When there is a dispute, most workers' comp cases settle before going to court. However, more complex workplace injury or occupational disease cases may be more likely to end up in a hearing to reach an agreement. Workers' comp hearings may be used to determine whether or not an injury is work-related or the extent of the work injury. If you are assigned a workers' comp hearing date, it is best to prepare in advance.
Workers' compensation laws are different in every state. There may be different deadlines for reporting a workplace accident, requesting a hearing, or filing an appeal. Talk to an experienced workers' comp lawyer in your state for more information about workers' comp claims.
If you do not have a workers' comp attorney, have copies of all medical records and medical bills related to your injury. If you do have a workers' compensation attorney, they will usually gather all the evidence for your case, including medical treatment records, medical bills, and disability evaluations.
Since workers' comp hearings tend to last a few hours, you may not have to prepare for a whole day away. However, complex worker's compensation claim hearings can take a few days. You should be ready for a long day and may want to prepare by packing a lunch and bringing any daily medication you may need.
In a workers' compensation hearing, the injured worker and the workers' compensation insurance carrier will each get to present their own side of the claims process dispute to the judge or hearing officer. You or your attorney will present evidence using accident reports, medical evidence, and witness testimony. You will get the chance to question witnesses and make legal arguments. The workers' compensation insurance company and their attorney can also make statements and ask questions.
Before the hearing, discovery involves gathering evidence to be used in a legal hearing, usually written documents and statements. You and the insurance company will present your discovery packets to the judge for review.
Workers' comp cases usually include evidence of lost wages, medical records and bills, depositions from medical professionals, and employment records. It is best to start gathering copies of everything you need as soon as you have a hearing date to account for any delays.
In most cases, you will also be required to send copies of documents to the other side. Violating discovery practices can cause the judge to bar your evidence, which could hurt your case.
Most of the time, the injured party will be asked to testify at a workers' comp hearing. You will answer questions from your own workers' comp attorney (if you have one) and then by opposing counsel (cross-examination). You will most likely be asked about how your injury occurred, permanent disabilities, what symptoms you suffer from, current job duties, education, and employment training.
Never guess or speculate if you do not know the answer to a question. You can say that you do not know or do not remember. If you are asked to testify, prepare what you intend to say to avoid confusion. Be sure to write your work-related injury timeline in detail, including primary care treatment and all referrals, so that you know the proper sequence of events when asked. Your workers' comp lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing, so you are familiar with the process.
The judge may not make any decisions at your workers’ comp hearing but instead will review all exhibits, testimony, and evidence and present a final order within 30 to 90 days. The written decision will be mailed to you or your attorney, the insurance company's lawyer, and the insurance company. If the judge rules against you, or for some other reason you disagree with the judge's decision, you have to right to file an appeal.
The workers' compensation appeals process and deadlines vary from state to state, but they should be indicated in the judge's order. For example, in New York, an appeal of the judge's decision must be filed within 30 days of the filing date of the judge's decision. However, in Connecticut, after an administrative law judge has rendered a formal hearing, either party has 20 days to appeal the decision. Be sure to follow all deadlines, and if you have any questions, discuss them with your workers' compensation lawyer or the clerk at your local courthouse.
As long as you know what to expect, preparing for a workers' compensation case will be easier than it first appears. An experienced lawyer can help ensure you are ready for your workers' compensation hearing and that you have the best possible chance at getting workers' compensation benefits or a settlement that provides for your needs.