After a workers’ compensation claim is made by an employee if the insurer denies the claim the litigation process will begin. In order for an employee to determine the strengths and weaknesses of his or her opponent’s case, the employee must conduct “discovery.” In order for an employer and/or insurer to determine the strengths and weaknesses of its opponent’s case, the employer and/or insurer must conduct “discovery.”
“Discovery” is the process by which information is exchanged between opposing parties. Sometimes this process is easy and painless and sometimes a party’s requests for discovery will be met with opposition and hurdles from the opposing side. It is important to obtain the most relevant information possible, whether it is helpful or hurtful, to minimize surprises and plan your strategy. Additionally, it is important to know what documents and information you must give to the other side and what information may be protected by a privilege and may remain confidential.
Leveling the Playing Field
Obtaining a lawyer to guide you through discovery and litigation can be essential. It is important to anticipate what the other side will argue and how you may challenge those arguments. It is as important to recognize the weaknesses in your own case as it is to recognize the weaknesses in your opponent’s case so that you may be prepared for their attacks. This will also help you determine what you fairly deserve and the range of what you will likely recover.
The Judicial System for Workers’ Comp Claims
Workers’ compensation hearings on claim petitions and settlement conferences are conducted at the Office of Administrative Hearings. A judge conducts hearings on claim petitions and attends settlement conferences to ensure the flow of communication and efforts at settlement.
Ultimately, each party decides what amounts they will accept in settlement and what they will not. An attorney can provide advice along the way, but the ultimate decisions belong to the employee, the employer, and the insurer, not their attorneys. If settlement is unsuccessful, the parties may participate in mediation. Mediation is conducted when both sides feel it may be helpful.
If there is no mediation or if mediation is unsuccessful, the judge will hold a trial on the merits of the claim. The judge makes a final, binding decision. Trials require parties to comply with the applicable rules and laws. You may have an excellent point to make, but if you can’t figure out the appropriate procedure by which to make that point, the judge may never hear it. It is extremely important to find an attorney that can help you through the trial process.