Going to a work comp hearing might be a new experience for many. In Florida, employers with four or more employees must have a workers’ compensation plan for work-related injuries. Those in the construction industry must have insurance for all their employees. The policy covers injury treatment and the income the employee lost while away from work.
Sometimes, injured workers have their claims denied. When this happens, Florida law allows them to appeal the denial before the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC). The judge would order further negotiations to agree on a settlement. Where both parties are still unable to settle, the case would proceed to a hearing.
The hearing is your one chance to tell your story and get the judge to decide in your favor. Thus, it’s important to know what to expect in a work comp hearing. Our Miami workers’ compensation lawyers will cover this in this article. In addition, if your employer denies your claim, we can help you commence the appeal process and get the compensation you deserve.
How the Work Comp Hearing Process Works
You or your Miami work comp attorney will present your case at the workers’ compensation hearing before the judge. The onus is on the judge to examine the evidence and determine whether your claim has merit or not. So, remain calm and polite even when you feel your employer, insurer, or lawyer are saying the wrong things.
When going for the hearing, try to appear presentable. While you must not wear a suit, your attire should be neat. The hearing should last a few hours, but it might take days if the dispute cannot be resolved immediately. Also, those at the hearing would be:
- You and your lawyer
- The insurance company’s lawyer
- The workers’ compensation judge
- The court reporter to record the transcript of the hearing
- Witnesses, e.g., colleagues, supervisors, doctors, and other experts
- A representative of your employer and the insurance company representative
Below we discuss what to expect at the hearing.
Presentation of Documents and Other Evidence
At the beginning of the hearing, you and your employer’s insurance company will present documentary evidence for the judge to review. The evidence includes:
- Unpaid medical bills and medical records
- Proof of lost wages like paystubs relating to your injury
- Personnel and other employment records
- Depositions and reports by expert witnesses, e.g., the treating physician
- Documents of your job search if it’s relevant to your case
Note that there’s a discovery stage before the hearing. At this point, parties to a dispute present to each other the evidence they want to admit during the trial. If you withhold any document and fail to disclose it to the other party, the judge reserves the right not to accept it as evidence.
Testifying and Cross-Examination
You will testify at the hearing. Here, you will tell your story, but your narration will be limited to the questions asked by your lawyer. Typically, you should expect questions on:
- Where the accident happened
- How you sustained the injury
- Your symptoms and limitations, that is, what you can no longer do because of your injury.
- Your educational background, job description, and training
- Whether or not you’ve attempted to return to work
After your attorney questions you, the insurance company’s lawyer will cross-examine you. They intend to put you on edge and possibly get you to contradict your previous statement. Note that the judge will put you under oath to ensure you tell the truth. The judge might also ask you questions, so answer truthfully.
Other Witnesses Testifying
After taking your testimony, the judge may allow you and the insurance company to call other witnesses. These witnesses will either support the evidence you have presented or argue against it. Medical practitioners are the most common expert witnesses called in work comp hearings.
The Judge’s Decision
The last thing to expect at a workers’ compensation hearing is the judges’ decision. The judge would rule on the case after hearing both sides and examining the evidence. Usually, the judge decides within 30 to 90 days. If the ruling doesn’t favor you, you can appeal to the First District Court of Appeal. Again, your Miami work comp lawyer can help you with the process.
Contact Us Today!
A denied claim is not the end of your workers’ compensation case. Our work comp lawyers at Miami Lawyers 360 will take all the necessary steps to win at your work comp hearing and get your benefits. We will aggressively pursue your claim and will not relent until we win. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.