What Can I Expect If My Workers’ Compensation Case Goes To A Hearing?
A hearing is basically a trial. An individual can set their work comp case for a hearing as many times as needed throughout the course of the claim, as long as the issue is ripe. Ripe means that there is a dispute to be adjudicated by a judge and the parties don’t agree. For instance, prior to the end of the case, there can be a dispute over how much the weekly benefit amount should be, which is called an average weekly wage dispute. Or, if a surgery is denied as not reasonably necessary, that can also cause a dispute. Those issues and many others can be set for a hearing. In Colorado, once the application for a hearing is filed, the hearing has to be held within a certain period of time. Generally speaking, it is between 120 and 180 days, depending on whether continuances are requested.
The injured worker can then expect to receive releases and requests for information from the insurance carrier’s counsel. The requests for information are called interrogatories, and those very frequently include questions about prior employment, earnings, the injury, continuing symptoms of any prior work comp claims or accident, and the amount of benefits that are being claimed. The injured worker has to answer the interrogatories within a 20-day period of time in order for the case to go forward to trial. Sometimes the injured worker’s attorney will recommend having an expert witness to testify in court or by deposition. Once the parties actually get to court, there is a judge but no jury. That type of trial is called a bench trial.
At the bench trial, the injured worker puts on his case and the insurance company puts on its case. There is cross-examination, opening arguments, sometimes closing arguments, and frequently an administrative law judge will request the parties submit position statements. The position statements are usually submitted two to three weeks after the date of the hearing. The judge will then have 30 days to issue an order. The whole hearing procedure can happen anytime throughout the claim, and it can happen a number of times throughout the claim. For example, on the case that I had for 14 years, we went to court at least eight times over different issues. On the other hand, the majority of my cases never go to court, and we resolve the issues ahead of time.
Is There A Danger Of Getting A Lesser Settlement If I Take My Workers’ Comp Claim To Court?
If you take your workers’ comp claim to court there is a possible danger that you will get a lesser settlement. It is always a possibility because it’s the “risk and uncertainty” of litigation. For example, an injured worker says that he or she is owed $10,000 in back wages. The insurance company denies and says no back wages are owed because they were terminated for cause. If there’s a settlement amount on the table for $5,000 which the injured worker doesn’t accept, if he goes to court and loses, the injured worker will get zero. On the other hand, if the injured worker does not accept the settlement and goes to court and wins, the injured worker gets $10,000. Whether a settlement should be accepted depends on the facts of each case.
That’s why it is important to consult with a lawyer. The work comp lawyer can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the particular case and make a recommendation. The lawyer can give an analysis based on case law and experience as to whether the injured worker should consider taking the settlement, or if it’s a strong case and it’s worth the risk to go to court. It is never the attorney’s decision on whether to accept the settlement offer. It is always the injured worker’s decision. The attorney is there to give the injured worker recommendations and guidance, but a lot of times, injured workers forget it’s their case, it’s their voice, and their decision.
Do Most Workers’ Comp Cases End In A Settlement Agreement?
Most workers’ comp cases will either end in a settlement agreement or a closure of the claim. Closure of the claim is when an individual reaches maximum medical improvement, receives permanent partial, or some type of permanent disability benefits. If there are no other disputes, the claim closes by way of final admission of liability, which allows the individual to petition to reopen for up to six years after the date of injury. A lot of times, when we get to the end of the case, the parties don’t necessarily agree and the injured worker no longer works for the employer where that person was injured, so we go the settlement route instead. Whether we let a case close or do a full and final settlement very often depends on how big or small the injury is.
Secondly, whether a case should settle or simply “close” depends on the future medical care and potential future losses in the claim. For example, I have a client that works in heavy industry and that client had a knee injury. The knee injury never really fully healed, and when the client returned to work prior to the end of the case, the knee symptoms started worsening again. In that case, even though the employer and the insurance company wanted to settle the claim on a full and final basis, the injured worker opted to just let the claim “close.” That was because the client was concerned future knee surgery might be necessary and not settling on a full and final basis would maintain the right to petition to reopen.
What Are Some Pros And Cons Of Accepting A Settlement Offer In A Workers’ Compensation Case?
The pro of accepting a settlement offer in a workers’ compensation case is that there are many injured workers who don’t need a lot of future medical care. They received adequate permanent partial disability benefits and no longer work for that employer. In that case, where the injured worker isn’t looking at substantial future medical care, then it’s probably fine to settle assuming that the settlement money offered is reasonable. Then at that point, all the parties are done with each other and everybody walks away. In a lot of cases, that’s good for injured workers who are just really tired of dealing with their particular work comp case, and they want to simply move on with their life.
The downside to accepting a settlement offer is if the offer is not fully thought through and all the terms that need to be addressed are not. The person may not be receiving an adequate settlement for all the rights they’re waiving. The downside after a full and final settlement is that it is extremely difficult to reopen one. The case law is against reopening them.
For more information on Workers’ Comp Case Hearing In Colorado, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (303) 420-8080 today.
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