If your workers’ compensation claim has gone all the way to a hearing, you may be concerned about what to do next. For many individuals, a workers’ compensation hearing is their first time in a courtroom, and it’s a process that can certainly be daunting. While your workers’ compensation attorney should give you a little bit of background on what to expect, and what to prepare for, we thought we’d give you a full list of things to double check before that hearing date. From prepping for the hearing, to what you’re supposed to do in the hearing, to what to expect after the hearing, we have a few tips for you:
Preparing to Testify
In many cases an injured worker is required to testify at their hearing. Make sure you prepare for your testimony in advance. While you don’t want it to sound rehearsed or robotic, you do want to have specific key facts at the front of your mind. Your attorney can help you prepare, and will let you know which facts are relevant. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
Summarize How Your Accident Happened
No matter what part of your claim the insurance company is disputing, there will be questions regarding exactly what happened during the incident, and how. Whether they feel that the accident occurred while you were off-duty, or they feel it was out of their control, the hearing exists to flesh out those details. Make sure to go over your testimonial so you have the details and timeline down. Then, review any reports or accounts of the incident, and make sure your testimonial lines up with them. If it doesn’t, you should have clear, truthful explanations for any errors in the reports.
Prepare a Timeline of Your Medical Treatment
It can be really difficult to keep your medical treatment timeline straight, especially if you’ve suffered a major injury. While you may not have all of the details down, it’s good to make sure you’re clear on the timeline of what you were treated for, and when. You should be able to outline any procedures you had done, what they were supposed to achieve, and any work restrictions that have occurred as a result of your injury.
Identify Whatever Current Symptoms and Limitations You’re Experiencing
Your testimony functions to set the record straight. The judge needs to hear the facts from both sides, and the injuries you’ve sustained are a major part of that. So, during your testimony, you’ll want to include whatever your current symptoms are, any residual pain you have from the injury, and what limitations you are confined to in terms of both day-to-day and work functions. Do your best to be as clear and honest as possible. If your injury makes it difficult to walk for example, don’t say you’re no longer able to walk, but instead that you can only walk for short periods of time.
Talk to Your Coworkers and Other Potential Witnesses
Your attorney will help you decide if you need witnesses for your hearing, but it’s a good idea to talk to those who were around during the accident, as well as those who were closest to you during your recovery. Anyone who can give a solid account of the incident where you were injured, or can provide more information about your disability following the action, may be able to help in your workers’ compensation hearing.
Additional Hearing Preparation
Here are a couple of things, outside of your testimony, that you’ll want to have ready going into the hearing:
Copies of All of Your Medical Records
A good way to keep track of the last point is to make sure you have your own copies of your medical records. While your doctor and the hospital are supposed to send regular reports to both your insurance carrier and the workers’ compensation board, having your own copies, and storing them in a safe place is a good way to guarantee that all of the information is where it needs to be. This also ensures that if something goes missing, you have a copy handy for the hearing.
Copies of Prescription Bills and Mileage Requests
In most workers’ compensation cases, you’re entitled to reimbursement for mileage and prescriptions that are in any way related to your claimed injury. You should bring copies of the prescription bills as well as mileage requests with you, if your insurance carrier has yet to reimburse you for these fees.
During the Hearing
You’ll want to talk with your attorney to determine when your hearing is, and when you should arrive. In most cases, your attorney will set an appointed time to meet prior to the hearing, so you can discuss a few last-minute details, and prepare for the hearing. Even if you don’t plan on meeting your attorney before the hearing, you should still arrive early. This ensures that even if you run into traffic, you’re still at your hearing in a timely manner, and it conveys respect to the judge.
While it’s not necessary to wear a suit and tie, you should plan on dressing nicely. You’ll want to wear a nice shirt and dress pants. If you have any questions regarding attire, your attorney should be able to advise you on what would look best.
Bring Any Daily Medical Equipment
When you arrive for your hearing, you should have all medical equipment that you use for getting around. If you need crutches to walk, bring those. If your injury causes headaches, or you’re sensitive to light, feel free to bring your sunglasses in.
Expect Your Hearing to Take a While
While most workers’ compensation hearings take less than an hour, depending on the complexity of your case, it could be much longer. It’s good to plan to be at the hearing for a few hours, just in case something does take awhile. Your workers’ compensation attorney should be able to give you some idea of how long your hearing will take, as they understand how it compares to other cases they’ve had.
Prepare for Questioning
It’s possible that you will be questioned by both attorneys. Your attorney should prepare you for this, but just be sure to answer the questions as honestly and clearly as possible. It’s also important that you do not volunteer information. While you do want to answer all questions honestly, don’t try to give the insurance company more information than they asked for. For example, if you’re asked if you’ve had any other shoulder-related workers’ compensation cases, just answer yes or no. Do not offer up information about a previous back-related workers’ compensation claim.
Do Not Act Hostile
Sometimes workers’ compensation hearings can be frustrating. In some instances, the other attorney or witnesses may say something that is upsetting to you. Try to remain as calm as you possibly can, as appearing hostile, violent, or aggressive will not help your case. If you hear something that you believe is not true, stay calm and quiet. If it’s something you believe your lawyer should be aware of, you may discreetly pass your lawyer a note, but do not speak out of turn.
Admit You Don’t Know the Answer
Finally, if you’re asked a question you do not know the answer to, or cannot remember the answer to, it’s more than acceptable to just admit that. Giving the honest answer will do you much more good than struggling for an answer you think might be right. In the same vein, do not speculate about any questions you’re given. It’s not a good idea to guess why you were injured, or why a machine malfunctioned, as that is information that could be used against you, as that is speculation rather than fact.
After the Hearing
Following the hearing, the judge will issue a written order that contains his or her decision regarding your case. Depending on where you’re from this could take a few weeks, but in some areas may take longer. You should talk to your workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you receive the order. If you disagree with the decision of the order, you are able to file an appeal, but you must do so by the date printed on the order. Again, this is a good point to talk to your workers’ compensation lawyer, as they will best be able to help you in this situation.
If you have questions regarding your workers’ compensation case, or your workers’ compensation hearing, make sure to call Jack Epstein today. The Epstein Law firm has decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims, and can help you in fighting for the compensation that you deserve. Call our office at 773-522-7000 or send us a message online; your first case evaluation is always free.