When you file a claim for workers’ comp benefits, your employer or the employer’s insurer may deny the claim for a variety of reasons. If your claim is denied, you may try to negotiate with the insurer and try to reach some sort of agreement. In most cases, it is possible to have your claim settled through mediation or other modes of negotiation.
However, in the rare cases when the insurer completely refuses to reach a settlement, you can request a formal hearing of your case. A workers’ comp judge typically oversees the hearing and decides after hearing the arguments of both sides and examining the evidence.
The hearing is a crucial stage for your workers’ compensation claim. This is why it is vital that you know how to prepare for the hearing and what to expect during the hearing. Here is a look at these aspects.
Preparing for a Workers’ Compensation Hearing
You should be fully prepared when you go to a workers’ comp hearing. The hearing is your chance to show that you have a right to workers’ comp benefits. It is not enough to argue thus – you must also be able to provide the evidence to back this up. Here are some guidelines on how to prepare for the hearing.
- Hire a Lawyer: The hearing is of utmost importance. And while you can prepare for it on your own, it is best to consult a lawyer with experience in the area. A workers’ comp lawyer can provide you invaluable tips on how to prepare for the hearing.
- Partake in Discovery: The legal process of ‘discovery’ involves exchanging the relevant documentation and information with the other side. In a workers’ comp case, you will be required to exchange these details with the insurance company. Discovery also allows you to look at the evidence of the insurance company and be prepared to counter it.
- Gather Medical Evidence: You are required to furnish all the relevant medical evidence, records, and documentation that back your claim. This evidence is of central importance to your workers’ compensation claim. The insurance company may ask you to undergo a separate medical examination, known as an independent medical examination (IME). This is usually performed by a doctor chosen by the insurance company, so you must consult a lawyer on how to handle an IME.
- Undergo Deposition: A deposition is where you can cross-examine the witnesses and experts of the insurance company, and the insurance company does likewise to your witnesses and experts. Depositions are usually performed under an oath, transcribed by a court reporter, and also captured as audio or video. A judge considers these depositions when making a decision about your claim.
During the Workers’ Comp Hearing
During the workers’ comp hearing, a judge will typically consider two things. Whether you as a person should be believed, and whether you have a valid claim. This is why you must act in a reasonable manner through the hearing. This involves dressing formally, acting calmly, and responding to any questions you are asked in a polite manner.
At the hearing, you can expect a number of personnel to be present. These typically include the judge, lawyers from both sides, you, and possibly representatives of your employer and the insurance company. In addition, a court reporter and relevant witnesses will also be likely present during the hearing.
At the start of the hearing, you will be required to submit the ‘exhibits’ of the case. These are essentially the pieces of evidence which you must also share with the insurance company during the discovery phase. The insurance company likewise submits its own exhibits.
The next step is to provide your testimony about how you were injured, the nature of your injuries, your past education and work and so on. During the testimony, your own lawyer will first question you and then the insurer’s lawyer will cross-examine you. In a similar way, the testimony of all the witnesses will be received.
After the Hearing
After a workers’ comp hearing, you will have a final chance of arguing your case by submitting all the arguments in your favor in writing. The judge will not pronounce a decision at the hearing. Instead, the judge will consider the proceedings of the hearing, the relevant evidence, the written briefs and other details of the case. Then he or she will make a decision, typically within 1 to 3 months. This decision will be mailed to you.
Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Atlanta, GA
If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim in Atlanta, GA, our lawyers can help you. Here at Ted Greve & Associates, we particularly work with claimants who run into disagreements with the insurer over their workers’ comp claim. We help you through the mediation and hearing process to ensure you present your claim in an effective way. Call us today to discuss your claim with our lawyers.