Approximately five percent of all workers’ compensation cases end up going to trial while the vast majority of them are resolved through settlement agreements or negotiations before trial is even a possibility. What factors play into why a case would go to court instead of being settled prior to trial?
We have asked lawyer, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Workers’ Compensation Trial
During a workers’ compensation trial, the injured employee should expect the process to go much like a normal court hearing. It will be before a magistrate who hears all evidence in the case and makes a determination based on the facts presented, as well as the law. The employee and any other witnesses will be sworn in and testimony given.
Other testimony often includes witnesses to the accident, as well as medical expert testimony on the injuries sustained. Medical records and other deposition testimony may also be admitted. Trials can last for just one day but can go on for several, depending on the case. At the end of the hearing, the judge will order a ruling. If benefits are ordered to be paid, the judge will order that these start, including any back pay that may be needed from the date the injury occurred.
While the great majority of cases settle before going to trial, certain factors can play into whether a case will proceed to trial.
Many cases that go to trial involve injuries that the employer denies are from the work-related incident but are, instead, caused by a preexisting condition. If that is the case, the employer may be hesitant to settle and may push back on the claim, forcing it to go to trial. If the work-related injury exacerbated a pre-existing injury, the injury can still be covered, but it can be trickier to prove.
In this type of case, an expert medical witness will almost always be needed to testify on what the employee’s condition was before the injury, what it was like after the incident at work occurred, and how the incident made the pre-existing injury worse. The employee may also need to provide evidence showing causation for the injury as well as economic figures on how his or her pay is affected due to inability to perform previous job duties.
These cases are not easy to win, but it is possible with the right evidence and the assistance of a workers’ compensation attorney.
Temporary Versus Permanent Injury
When it comes to work-place injuries, the extent of the injuries can vary from temporary to permanent, as well as partial to full in terms of the disability that resulted. Obviously, a full-disability, permanent injury will cost the employer a lot more in terms of pay-out for benefits than a temporary, partial-disability injury.
Employers may low-ball their offers with an injury that is expected to be permanent, in hopes of not having to pay as much, and they may even push it as far as taking the matter to trial. If that happens, the employee will need to line up expert witnesses to testify as to the extent of the injury and how the injury will prevent the employee from ever performing the duties he or she once performed.
Restrictions the Employer Will Not Accommodate
Many times, the employee can come back to work but will require certain accommodations to allow for this to happen. If the injury sustained is serious in scope and is expected to be permanent, the employee may ask the employer to make certain accommodations for him or her to allow the employee to return to the job.
If the employee is not willing to make these adjustments and would rather take the matter to trial, then a hearing will ensue. Expert testimony regarding the employee’s injuries, as well as his or her disabilities and needs following this injury will be needed. The employee will need to show to the court what accommodations are needed due to the employee’s injuries, giving the costs and extents for these accommodations, and it will then be up to the judge, at this point, to make a determination on what to order.
Contact a Lawyer Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions about filing your claim, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help review your case and discuss your options. A lawyer can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact a lawyer experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.