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Going to Trial: What You Need to Know

Sometimes a settlement cannot be reached in a workers’ compensation case. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes employers dispute liability entirely, alleging employee misconduct that disqualifies them. Other times, there is a dispute over the amount of compensation due. This can result from disagreement over necessary medical treatments and expenses or over the extent of the disability and the amount of time off required for recovery. Sometimes a settlement is reached and the Board disapproves it because it does not adequately account for bona fide factual disputes.  In any of these types of cases, a trial may ultimately be necessary.

Administrative Procedure

Disputes over workers’ compensation benefits fall under what is broadly known as administrative law. This means they are not initially adjudicated in a traditional court, but rather in an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Board of Workers’ Compensation has a trial division and an appellate division to resolve disputed claims. The trial division has a procedure for expedited resolution of the issues, allowing the dispute to be heard by conference call. This procedure is for a specific category issues related to medical costs that do not require an evidentiary hearing.

In other cases there is a need for an actual evidentiary hearing. Evidentiary hearings are similar to courtroom trials, but with slightly less formality. Witnesses are called, evidence is introduced, and the rules of evidence apply. Arguments are made and the administrative law judge makes a determination on the merits.

Appeals

An administrative law judge’s determination may not be immediately appealed in court. The Administrative Procedure Act first requires litigants to exhaust their administrative remedies. This means that they must first seek review with the Board’s appellate division. Only after completing this process may an administrative law judge’s order be reviewed in court. The issues are then reheard and the judge can issue a decision without being required to grant deference to the administrative law judge’s findings.

Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Of all the situations when a workplace injury requires the assistance of an attorney, an evidentiary hearing is perhaps the most important. If there are disputes in your workers’ compensation claim that could not be resolved at the negotiating table, and you proceed to a hearing, you are almost certainly going to find that your employer will be represented by counsel at the hearing. In that case, though administrative procedures are less formal than traditional courtroom settings, you still need some expertise in the laws of evidence and the ability to argue the relevant facts with respect to the law.

There is too much at stake in a trial setting to risk representing yourself against a skilled corporate attorney. Contact the workers’ compensation experts at the Bader Scott Injury Lawyers today. We know how to prep your case for a hearing, and we have the skill and experience to avoid missteps and pitfalls common to laymen. We will identify the key issues in the dispute, call the right witnesses, ask the right questions, and put forth the best arguments on your behalf. Attorneys’ fees are generally limited in workers’ compensation cases so as to make the assistance of counsel more accessible to employees.  So do not let the fear of not being able to afford an attorney keep you from getting the best representation you can. Your future is at stake; trust it to a professional.

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Seth Bader
(678) 562-5595