Workers Compensation Hearing Questions
Should I Request a Workers Comp Hearing?
Making the decision to request a Workers Compensation hearing is not easy. When you go to a Workers Compensation hearing, the finder of fact is the judge, and he or she alone has the power to determine if you get your Workers Compensation benefits or not.
Most people don’t realize that a Workers Compensation judge will not award any future benefits as part of a lump sum. The judge can only determine what you are owed as of the date of the Workers Compensation hearing and can order ongoing weekly benefits unless another event occurs that terminates your benefits.
Going to a Workers Compensation hearing can be a gamble, but your attorney can tell you what they think your chances of success are. In making this evaluation, both sides to the Workers Comp claim evaluate the risk involved with rolling the dice at Workers Compensation hearing against what money has been offered to settle the case.
Most people decide to settle when they weigh their options and realize that the amount of money they would receive by settling is enough to make them choose not to risk going to a Workers Compensation hearing and potentially getting nothing.
Usually we recommend a Workers Compensation hearing to our clients when we have received an extremely low settlement offer or no offer at all. Settling your case is an important decision and one that you need to make with your attorney’s guidance. Once you and your attorney have discussed your case and weighed your arguments against the insurer’s defenses, it will be easier to make your decision.
How Do We Value Cases?
Your attorney will know best how much you can ask for to settle your claim and will always start out asking for the highest number they can justify in their initial settlement demand. This number is usually based on how many weeks of benefits you have remaining under the law and an estimate of the degree of your injury and how long it will take you to recover.
We can also ask for things like a permanent partial disability rating, which is a percentage assigned for your degree of permanent disability or injury that is set out by Minnesota Rule 5223. We can also determine the likelihood of your being able to return to work with this employer, a different employer or whether you will not be able to return to work at all.
How Do Settlement Negotiations Work?
After the initial settlement demand is sent out, there is a period of settlement negotiations that can take place informally, at a settlement conference or at mediation. These negotiations consist of attorneys for both sides going back and forth with arguments on the strengths and weaknesses of the case and numbers.
The final Workers’ Compensation settlement offer depends on which side ultimately has the strongest case. If both sides are equally confident they have a winning case, the parties can reach an impasse, and determine both sides are just too far apart to settle. In those cases, the case will likely end up at Workers Compensation hearing.
What Happens in a Workers Compensation Settlement Hearing?
The first step in the Workers Compensation hearing process is the injured worker, or their attorney, will file a formal Claim Petition with the Office of Administrative Hearings, Workers Compensation Division.
Next, the attorneys meet with the judge at a settlement conference, which is like a pre-trial conference, where the attorneys let the judge know whether they expect to come to an agreement. If the attorneys are unable to reach an agreement, then a hearing is scheduled.
At the Workers Comp hearing, the order that each side presents their arguments and witnesses will depend on the judge’s preference. Usually the person bringing the claim will proceed with their case first. It is also up to the judge to decide whether the attorneys will present opening statements or closing statements.
When you go to a Workers Compensation hearing, both sides call witnesses to support their claims. Most often, the Employee is the main witness for the Employee’s claim and the Employer will occasionally call a supervisor or witnesses to the accident or injury. Occasionally, the Workers’ Compensation QRC may be asked to testify as well.
The Employee usually goes first and is asked a series of questions by their own attorney in a direct examination and then by the Employer/Insurer’s attorney in a cross-examination. The attorneys will also present exhibits, including the results of the Independent Medical Examination, Deposition and any Narrative Reports from doctors, QRCs, or other expert witnesses.
What is the Workers Comp Hearing Schedule?
Once you have been denied Workers Compensation benefits and a Claim Petition has been filed, it can take up to 6 months to schedule the settlement conference, and an additional 2-6 months to schedule the hearing. Hearings can be set for a few hours, or up to a full-day.
After the Workers Compensation hearing is concluded, the judge has 60 days to issue a written decision, called the Findings and Order. If you win, the Employer/Insurer must issue the Workers’ Compensation settlement check within 14 days or file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days. If you lose, then your attorney will discuss whether they believe you have a basis for an appeal. Your attorney must file an appeal within 30 days of the decision.
How Can Our Attorneys Help?
As you can see, the Workers Compensation claim process can be very complicated. It’s important to have someone on your side who understands all the intricate details of your case, as well as a deep knowledge of the Minnesota Workers Compensation Laws and how they pertain to your unique situation.
Our Workers Compensation attorneys take pride in providing exceptional service to our clients. We believe that you should be given all the options and information you need to make the best decision for you and your family. We can also help relieve any stress and fear you may experience with attending a hearing in a court room, protect your rights during cross-examination, and make sure all the facts are presented to the judge clearly and concisely.
If you were injured at work, call us today for a free, no-obligation case review.