If you have a serious injury on the job and file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits you will most likely at some point in time have to attend a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Board. The hearing process can be daunting to many first time attendees. They don’t know what to expect; what to bring or in many cases even what to wear. Those who have attended hearings are upset about the fact that they have to wait for a long period of time in a huge waiting room only to be rushed in and out of the hearing courtroom or “part” in a matter of minutes. They complain that while sitting inside a hearing “part”, the parties all seem to be speaking in codes and abbreviations and they don’t seem to really understand what has occurred.
I am hoping that by providing information to you the hearing process does will not be as overwhelming and as confusing as it seems. When I first started in the practice, the board regularly scheduled hearings for any and all outstanding issues including need for treatment and or surgery. Most injured workers had numerous hearings before the workers’ compensation board with the same judge presiding and in many times the same insurance representative. Hearings were scheduled every 3-4 months untill the case was resolved which could take about 2 years.
Today however things are radically different. Most times medical requests are dealt with in-house. The medical treatment guidelines lay out specifically what is pre authorized if certain medical conditions apply. If the treating doctor wishes to pursue treatment outside the scope of the treatment guidelines he must request it and this may be authorized or denied. These requests and denials are all done through paperwork and the injured worker unfortunately has very little to say in the matter.
The amount of hearings has declined tremendously so if you are not represented by an attorney you need to be prepared.
- Put together a file.
- Make sure any administrative decisions have established all sites of injury you are claiming. If not, you need to tell the judge that you have a claim for other sites and you will be directed to produce medical where appropriate.
- While your treating physician should be submitting regular medical reports to the workers’ compensation board and insurance carrier, you should always have your own copies of your medical records including diagnostic studies.
- You are entitled to reimbursement for mileage and prescriptions related to your claim. Bring copies of bills and mileage requests if the carrier has failed to reimburse you for these expenses.
- You should bring copies of all pertinent paperwork with you to proceed with your claim.
- Do not ever come late to a hearing but bring reading material as many cases rarely start at the time indicated. However if you are late the judge will probably not recall your case and now you must wait for a rehearing.
- You should be dressed appropriately and while a suit is not required, be mindful of the fact that you are appearing in a court room.
The key to being your own successful advocate is to be prepared, be polite and be patient.
Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.