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What happens at a workers’ comp hearing?

As the injured worker is not entitled to a jury trial, she is entitled to an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  The hearing is also known as a bench trial.  It is also known as the ” employee’s day in court”.

At the hearing, the judge will generally request information from the parties of the pending case.  During this time, the lawyers will briefly layout their positions before the judge.   Once the judge understands the hearing issues, the judge will “go on the record” and “call the case.”  A court reporter will begin to record the proceeding.  The judge will summarize the parties’ positions.  If the claimant requested the hearing on the issues of compensability, the injured worker may present testimony to the judge.  Before the injured employee may testify, she must be sworn under oath to tell the truth.  The injured worker will be cross examined by the defense lawyer.  The injured worker may also call other witnesses to support his case and tender documents such as medical records to the judge. After the claimant’s evidence is presented, the employee’s attorney may present evidence to justify why he or she is entitled to an assessment of attorney fees.

At the close of the injured worker’s case, the employer and insurance company may present its side of the story by calling its own witnesses such as supervisors or other employees.  Moreover, the employer may submit competing or contrary medical records or other documents to disprove the claimant’s story.  Once the employer and insurer finish their respective cases, the judge will likely close the record.

The judge will not issue a decision at this time.  Instead, the parties will draft closing briefs to the judge which summarize their positions and highlights the documentary evidence tendered to the court. The judge will consider the briefs and weigh the evidence before it issues her findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Before an injured worker participates in an evidentiary hearing, it is vital that he or she is prepared by an experienced lawyer like Bryan Ramos of the Ramos Law Firm. Otherwise, the injured employee is taking a big risk with his or her entitlement to weekly disability compensation or medical benefits.

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4 Comments

  1. leslie says:

    i requested a hearing i heard back from the worksmens comp board march2010 saying they will set a date for my hearing this is not my first time i dont understand why it is taking so long for my hearing?

  2. admin says:

    It is not uncommon for hearings to be continued and reset to a new date. This is to allow time for the discovery process to be completed. When the hearing is initially set you will receive a hearing notice and if/when it is reset you will receive a reset notice. That said, if you requested a hearing in March and have not received a hearing notice yet and you are not currently represented by counsel, I would suggest contacting the Board to make sure it was a Request for Hearing that was filed and not simply a Notice of Claim. If you are represented by counsel, then contact your attorney and ask for a status.

    Good luck, Leslie.

  3. Eric Tindall says:

    My question is on the amount set aside for medical separate from the amount awarded to me. Why should I have to put in my own money into this account. We will say they are asking me to put $10,000 of my money awarded to me. Is this standard practice. I don’t feel that I should have to participate in my own payment of medical set aside for my 20 yr expected lifetime. They also want me to go to my Dr. and have my medicine changed to what they want me to take. Do I have to also go along with this or even the Dr.?

  4. admin says:

    The overall settlement should consider the costs for future medical treatment and income benefits. Therefore, the value of the settlement award should reflect the cost for both. The setting aside of money for future treatment, in theory, protects the claimant and all interested parties. With regard to the medical treatment change, do you have an attorney? Generally, he or she would be able to help you with determining the proper course of treatment. If your case is settled, you do not have to treat with a particular physician. However, it is best o tstay within the fee schedule outlined in workers’ compensation unless you can get a better deal.

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