You and your employer have been unable to come to an agreement regarding what compensation is due as the result of a workplace injury, and now you’ve received notification that you’re required to attend a worker’s compensation hearing. You’re wondering what to expect and the situation is creating additional stress beyond what you’re already dealing with as a result of your injury.
While there can never be any guarantee you’ll be happy with the outcome of the hearing, you can be well prepared, and doing so will make the task a little less stressful.
It is always in your best interest to have an attorney present to represent your interests. You can rest assured the other side will have an attorney present, and that attorney will be prepared to vociferously argue why you are not entitled to your claim.
The other side’s attorney may even present surveillance footage of your activities, or information related to your past. When you have an attorney present, they’ll have prepared a strategy to attempt to counteract whatever information the other side may bring.
Gathering the Facts
Getting ready for a hearing can be difficult and time consuming. Prior to the hearing, your legal representative will gather all of the facts of your case, including depositions of witnesses and medical personnel whose information will be critical to your case.
Attorneys gather information through a specific discovery process that includes the depositions, the request of medical records and other documents, and anything else that can ensure your attorney is fully informed prior to the hearing.
The Hearing Site
By the date of the hearing, your lawyer will have already discussed the case with the judge and other attorney. You can expect you and your attorney will be seated at a table before the judge, or at a conference table with the judge at the end, and the attorneys and clients on either side.
You will likely be experiencing some nervousness, but try to stay as relaxed as possible and be patient even if the things appear to be moving slowly. Be aware that many hearings take one hour or less, and most are completed within 3 hours.
The hearing will begin with each side’s attorney making their opening statements. As the injured party, your attorney will present your side of the case first. Any witnesses speaking on your behalf will be called, cross-examined by the opposing party’s (employer) counsel, and then a redirect examination will be performed by your attorney.
Once your side has made its case, the opposing counsel will present their side using the same procedure. Your side will have a chance to rebut any evidence provided by the opposing counsel.
The Hearing Judge
Keep in mind that the judge hearing your case is responsible for your receiving a fair trial, and the judge will ensure that all parties follow proper procedures. The judge will be called upon to rule on objections made related to evidence or testimony, and if the attorneys get into a disagreement, or if any other sort of problem occurs, the judge will take action to keep everything orderly, fair, and impartial.
The judge listens to all testimony and statements and reviews the evidence. The judge may ask additional questions beyond what the attorneys have asked. The judge will likely take notes during the proceedings.
Most attorneys are familiar with the judges who preside over these hearings and will respect the protocol the judge demands. Once both sides have presented closing arguments, the judge will make a ruling. The judge may make a ruling right away, or it may take days, weeks, or even months for a ruling, depending on the complexity of the case, and your jurisdiction.
Your Conduct at the Hearing
At your hearing, you should always answer any questions in a straightforward and truthful manner. Be conscious of your appearance. Your clothes should be simple and understated, but professional, and you should be clean and neat. Always be polite. Listen attentively. Compose yourself and consider your response before answering any questions, and answer in as few words as possible.
Never guess, and never speculate. Never speak out of turn. Avoid rudeness, being sarcastic, being argumentative, and try not to look disdainful or exasperated. Your attorney will likely give you advice about how you should handle yourself during testimony. Remember that this advice comes from a place of experience and is meant to help you present yourself in the best possible manner.
If you need help with a worker’s compensation claim, our attorneys can help. Call us at 855-272-6992 for a free consultation.