In California, a workers’ compensation settlement hearing is often necessary when there is a dispute between an injured worker and the liable insurer. This is known as a mandatory settlement conference (MSC). During this meeting, you will meet with the claims administrator and a workers’ compensation judge. The judge works with both parties to help reach an agreement.
If there is no settlement during the MSC, the case will go on the judge’s docket for trial. As an injured worker, your workers’ compensation lawyer will be by your side and represent your best interests throughout this process. While you can legally represent yourself during this time, it is not recommended. Your attorney will understand the legal process, how these laws work, and what may happen at your workers’ compensation settlement hearing and at trial.
Understanding the Workers’ Compensation Settlement Process
When there is a disagreement about injuries, covered benefits, or other issues in a workers’ compensation case, there is a certain process the injured worker must navigate to challenge the insurer’s decisions. This process usually begins with appealing a denial.
When this occurs, they usually need to see a qualified medical evaluator (QME) or another physician agreed upon by the worker and the claims administrator. This comprehensive medical examination will answer many questions related to the injuries, their necessary treatments, and any remaining disabilities.
Next, depending on the disputed facts, there could be a series of proceedings. This could include a(n):
- Priority conference, which deals with disputes about the injuries
- Expedited hearing, which concerns treatment and temporary wage loss benefits
- Lien conference, which addresses medical billing concerns
- Status conference, which covers other issues
Throughout this process, settlement negotiations usually continue. A settlement could occur at any time. The judge will set a trial date if you cannot settle your case. During this trial, the court will hear evidence from each side. Then, considering this evidence, they will issue a decision about your benefits. This is usually your only chance to fight for benefits in front of a judge, so you want an attorney representing you.
What Happens When a Workers’ Compensation Case Goes to Trial?
When the trial date arrives, be prepared to spend a few hours at the courthouse. Some cases last only an hour or two, but some take several days. It depends greatly on the evidence in the case. Each side will have a chance to present their evidence, including having witnesses testify. In the end, the judge will weigh this evidence and rule on the case.
You can expect there to be several parties in the courtroom during your hearing. These parties could include:
- You and your legal team (often just the attorney)
- One or more lawyers representing the insurance company
- The workers’ compensation judge
- The court reporter who will record a transcript of the trial
- Any witnesses
- Representatives from your employer
- The claims administrator
- Others who have a hearing following yours, in some cases
Your lawyer may have you testify in your case. Anything you share could show that you suffered a covered injury and deserve workers’ compensation payments.
What Is the Role of an Attorney in Workers’ Compensation Hearings?
When you have a workers’ compensation hearing, you can trust your workers compensation attorney Los Angeles to have the proper evidence to prove your case. They will handle settlement negotiations, represent you to the judge, and help you prepare for any court appearances.
The evidence in these cases often depends on the disputed facts. Your attorney will know what they need to show and how to document it. Some common types of evidence include:
- Relevant medical records
- Medical bills
- Documents showing lost income
- Employment records subpoenaed from your employer
- Witness testimony
- Depositions from experts
In California Law, workers’ compensation law revent law firms from charging any upfront fees. Injured workers do not have to pay for their initial consultations or to get started on their cases. Attorneys only charge them money from the workers’ compensation settlement they recover for them. If they do not receive a settlement, the lawyer does not get paid.
How Do I Know What to Say When I Take the Stand?
Many injured workers do not want to testify in their cases. However, it is often essential to recover the compensation they deserve. Your attorney can help you prepare, even telling you what they plan to ask and giving examples of questions the insurance company could demand you answer on the stand.
Most injured workers need to testify if their workers’ compensation case goes to trial. They will need to answer questions that include:
- What caused your injury?
- What symptoms does your injury present?
- Do your injuries impede your quality of life?
- What are your ongoing limitations?
- What job do you have? Can you continue working?
- Have you attempted to return to work or find another job?
- What does maximum medical improvement look like in your case?
Generally, your attorney will question you first. Then, the insurance company’s lawyer will ask several questions. In some cases, the judge could also have questions. This does not tend to be a lengthy process, and it is okay if you do not know many of the answers. Just answer truthfully and tell them you cannot remember.
Learning the Judge’s Decision in Your Workers’ Compensation Case
Typically, you will not learn the judge’s decision during your hearing. Instead, the judge makes notes throughout the hearing and weighs the case made by each side later. They can review the exhibits, request a copy of the court recorder’s transcript, and take other steps to make their decision. Then, they issue a written opinion.
According to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), injured workers generally receive a mailed decision within 30 to 90 days of their trial.
Discuss Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement With Our Team Today
At KJT Law Group, our team of trial lawyers represents injured workers in MSCs, other hearings, and workers’ compensation trials. We will fight for the benefits you deserve, even if it requires a lawsuit. We offer free initial consultations so you can learn more. Contact us today at (818) 507-8525 to get started.