If your workers’ compensation claim has been wrongly denied or you cannot reach a fair settlement with your employer, you will have the opportunity to request a workers’ compensation hearing in Atlanta with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These hearings are referred to as evidentiary hearings. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC) will not schedule a hearing unless and until you or your attorney requests one, which requires filing a Form WC-14/Request for Hearing.
Reasons to Request a Hearing
As aforementioned, the primary reason a worker would request a hearing is because a workers’ compensation insurer denied his or her claim or negotiations for a settlement were at a standstill. The trial allows a worker and his or her attorney to present facts about his or her injuries and their impact on his or her ability to work or his or her ability to recover from the injuries.
Below are two other common circumstances that may require a hearing:
- Change of Condition – O.C.G.A. § 34-9-104 provides that if you had a “change in condition” that affects your wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status, you could request a hearing to modify your award. For example, your attorney can request a hearing if you worked with restrictions more than 15 days, but then you develop problems related to your injury and work. If your authorized physician then takes you out of work again, the employer must reinstate the prior income benefits.
- Catastrophic Injury – Catastrophic injuries often require a hearing. In order to have your injury classified as catastrophic and, therefore, make you eligible for lifetime income benefits, your lawyer may have to request a hearing. The judge will review the facts of the case and make a determination. Examples of catastrophic injuries that qualify for permanent benefits include loss of limb, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, third-degree burns, and total blindness.
What happens at an evidentiary hearing?
A workers’ compensation hearing is a formal presentation of a case by all interested parties before an ALJ of the SBWC. The parties present at the hearing usually include the injured worker and his or her attorney, an employer representative, and a representative of the workers’ compensation insurance company and its attorney.
Evidentiary rules and procedural rules apply much like they would in a normal trial.
- The ALJ will commence the hearing.
- The ALJ will make a statement that summarizes each party’s position.
- The worker will then swear in and give his testimony to the ALJ.
- The defense lawyer can then cross-examine the worker.
- The worker’s attorney can call witnesses to testify on the workers behalf, and present evidence and medical records to support the worker’s case. This can include any information gathered during thediscovery period and depositions.
- The employer and its insurer will present their side of the story, providing evidence, calling witnesses, and bringing records or documents geared at disproving the worker’s story.
While workers’ compensation evidentiary hearings are similar to a regular trial, there are some notable differences. First, there is no jury; the ALJ is the only one that hears and makes determinations. Also, the hearing is much less formal than a regular trial, and it ordinarily lasts a few hours instead of a few days or weeks.
A workers’ compensation hearing is also quite different from a workers’ compensation mediation. One of the biggest differences lies in who has control over the result of the case. With a hearing, the ALJ makes decisions regarding the outcome of the case, whereas with mediation, all of the interested parties have some input and at least some control over the result in the case.
Fighting for Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Atlanta? Call Us
After hearing and considering all the facts, the ALJ will make a decision. If you win your claim, you might be entitled to medical benefits, as well as back due income benefits.
For more information about workers’ compensation awards and appeals, and help with your claim including on your day in court, call Bader Law Firm, LLC. Contact us at 678-562-5595 for a free, no-obligation consultation today.