We see heartbreaking Workers’ Compensation cases every day. When we defend our clients, the employer and their Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier are sometimes unwilling to come to a fair settlement. When your case comes to court, you’ll have to fight against the insurance carrier and your employer to receive justice.
If you have been injured and never stepped into the courthouse before, a hearing can be an unnerving experience. With the proper preparation, however, you can eliminate surprises and improve your chances of achieving the results you deserve.
Before Your Workers’ Compensation Hearing
Before your hearing, you and your lawyer will need to review or collect some of the most pertinent documents to your Workers’ Compensation case. This could include:
Unpaid medical bills
Evidence of lost wages
Documents proving you have been job searching (if necessary)
This may seem like a lot of information to keep track of, but we have the people, tools, and strategies in place to make the process less daunting.
You will likely be called upon to testify before the judge, lawyers, and possibly witnesses during the hearing. If you are not comfortable speaking in front of people, talk to your lawyer for advice. You should be prepared to discuss:
Your medical history
Key details of the accident
Your current symptoms
You do not need to rehearse word-for-word, but you should be comfortable talking about these topics in a way that aligns with the law. If the circumstances surrounding your accident are complicated, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and succinctly.
At Dugan & Associates, we work with our clients so they understand exactly what their attorney will ask, what the opposing side will ask, and what the judge will look for. It is critical to stick to the most important details of the case, as you may open up a can of worms by bringing up the wrong thing. Many of the details you think are important may not be as important to the law or courtroom procedure. Your attorney will guide you through the details to determine what should and should not be covered. When reviewing the case details with your attorney, it is crucial to be honest so that your attorney can direct you and anticipate pitfalls in your case.
The Day of Your Workers’ Compensation Hearing
You will likely be required to appear at the hearing with your lawyer unless an administrative law judge has given you permission to be absent. A few guidelines to remember:
Dress appropriately for your hearing. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to wear a suit, but your clothing should be appropriate for a courtroom. Ask your lawyer for clarification if necessary.
Be polite and respectful. Good manners may not give you extra credibility, but bad manners could hurt you. We always tell clients that it doesn’t hurt to have the judge like you!
You must be present for your hearing, so do not risk missing it. Showing up late may imply that you’re not taking the hearing seriously, and that could be used against you or your case could be dismissed. You have to be on time, but the judge does not have to be.
Be prepared to sit for an extended period of time. Although most hearings are over relatively quickly, your hearing may last longer. Bring any necessary medications to your hearing.
During Your Workers’ Compensation Hearing
The judge will ask you to go under oath to promise to be truthful with every answer. Being honest is important because the judge is trying to determine whether to believe you or not. You may feel tempted to exaggerate your pain or the events that took place, but stick to the facts. Do not exaggerate. It could come back to hurt you.
Your lawyer will then ask a series of questions about your case. This may include the circumstances surrounding your injury, the injury itself, the medical assistance you’ve received, and other related topics.
Once your lawyer is finished asking questions, the insurance company’s lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine you. They will do their best to undermine your credibility. and uncover reasons why you don’t deserve benefits or why you deserve less than you and your lawyer requested in the mediation phase. Your lawyer should help you prepare for this section of the hearing by reviewing the questions you should be ready for.
After the lawyers are finished asking questions, the judge may have some questions to ask.
From there, you may need to sit through testimony from other people. These could include:
People who witnessed the accident
Experts picked by the insurance company or your employer
Once everyone has testified, the judge may have another round of additional questions before concluding the hearing.
After Your Workers’ Compensation Hearing
Depending on the case, the judge usually will not make a decision at your first hearing. After that hearing, most judges will set a schedule for what will happen next. The parties will go into litigation, schedule depositions, and try to reach a settlement.
Once a judge has received all sides of the case, he or she will usually take 30-90 days to reach a conclusion. Once they do, they will write and mail their decision to you, your lawyer, and the insurance company. If the Judge rules in favor of the insurance company, you’re not out of options. You and your lawyer can still file for an appeal to have another opportunity to receive the amount of benefits you deserve.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us. Dugan & Associates will fight the insurance companies to get you the check you deserve.