If you’re unfamiliar with the workers’ compensation system, the idea of going to a trial may be daunting. You may picture endless days in a large, crowded courtroom pleading your case before a jury. But the reality of a workers’ compensation trial is far different – and with a competent attorney on your side, you may be able to avoid going to trial at all.
To help put your concerns to rest, here’s some basic information about what happens at a workers’ comp hearing, and how you can improve your chances of a ruling in your favor.
WHAT IS A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRIAL?
In California, workers’ compensation trials are administrative hearings that take place before a judge with the goal of resolving any disputes between an injured worker and their employer. Generally, these hearings are held in small rooms with few people present – usually the judge, the attorneys, the plaintiff and defendant, a court reporter, and any witnesses offering testimony.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CALIFORNIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRIAL?
When the hearing begins, you and your attorney will present evidence to support your claim. Evidence may include:
- Medical records and bills
- Proof of lost wages, including pay stubs and employment records
- Depositions and reports from experts, such as your doctors
In most cases, you will also be called to testify. First, your workers’ comp attorney will ask you questions about your regular duties on the job, how you were injured, and how the injury affected your health and your work performance. You will likely also be cross-examined by your employer’s insurance company, and the judge may ask you questions as well.
Witness testimony is live, but some of the time, this is presented in the form of a transcript from a deposition conducted prior to the trial.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRIAL?
You and your attorney will work together to ensure you’re fully prepared for your trial – gathering evidence, requesting records, conducting depositions, and performing research to build a rock-solid case. Your attorney may prepare a workers’ compensation trial brief, which is a concise statement detailing all the facts of your claim. And to help you feel completely comfortable, your attorney will also review potential questions that the judge or opposing counsel may ask you during your testimony.
WHEN WILL I RECEIVE THE FINAL DECISION?
While most workers’ compensation trials last no more than one day, the judges usually take longer to reach their decisions. Exact durations vary from case to case, but you can expect to wait anywhere from 30 days to six months (or longer) before you receive the final verdict. The written decision will be mailed to you, your attorney, and your employer’s insurance company. If the judge rules against you, you may be able to appeal.
HOW OFTEN DO WORKERS’ COMP CASES GO TO TRIAL?
The vast majority of workers’ comp cases are settled before a hearing is required. In general, trials are only necessary if your employer refuses to settle, or if the settlement offer they present to you is extremely low. If you do end up going to trial, you’ll need a skilled workers’ comp attorney to represent you.
TALK TO SAN DIEGO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ATTORNEYS
There’s no need to face a workers’ compensation trial on your own. The attorneys at The Law Office of Matthew Russell have over 45 years of combined professional experience managing workers’ compensation claims for injured employees all over San Diego County. If you’re involved in a workers’ comp dispute with your employer, we can identify the problems and develop a plan for resolving them – and help you receive the maximum benefits you deserve.
Live in San Diego County? For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call us at (619) 544-1506