Legal proceedings notoriously have the reputation of being anything but short, including workers’ compensation cases. In fact, the possibility of being stuck in the legal system can make the possibility of filing a workers’ compensation case daunting and intimidating.
How long does the typical workers’ compensation case take? We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Seriousness of the Injury
How long a case will take depends on a number of factors specific to that case. The first determining factor is how serious the injury was that led to the case. The seriousness of the injury can affect how long it takes for the client to reach his or her maximum medical recovery (MMR).
MMR refers to the point where the client has reached a point in recovery where he or she is not likely to reach any further significant improvement in the injury. If the injury is minor and only requires a short period of time out of work, the case can be relatively simple, and MMR will be relatively short.
If the injury required surgery and extensive work, it may take a lot longer for MMR to be reached. One important consideration of MMR is that the term does not mean the employee is completely recovered; it simply means that the person’s medical condition has reached a point where his or her medical condition is not likely to get better.
Is a Benefit Review Conference Needed?
Before a lawsuit can be filed, in many states, a Benefit Review Conference is required. These conferences require that the parties attend a mediation-type of session that is run by the State’s appropriate department.
The workers’ compensation matter is often settled at the Benefit Review Conference, and at the end of this session, the claim will be “ended” and a check would be issued. If the parties are not able to come to an agreement during this “mediation,” they can then proceed to litigation.
However, this benefits conference does take time and can hold off on final litigation while parties schedule and complete the process.
The Lawsuit Process
One major factor that can hold up closure of a workers’ compensation case is the litigation process itself. The legal system has a reputation of being anything but efficient, and this is for a reason. Once a lawsuit is filed, the defendant will have 30 days to file a response.
Once this time period has lapsed, then begins the discovery process. This process is easily the longest part of preparing for litigation. Discovery involves exchanging questions, called interrogatories, and requests for production of documents.
Many times, in workers’ compensation cases medical records will need to be procured to show the extent of the injuries sustained. Depositions of the parties, doctors and other experts may also need to be taken.
Once all of this information is acquired and exchanged, parties will have the chance to review it, make additional requests if needed and prepare for trial.
Getting to trial can be quite the process, as well. The date will need to be set in advance, based on the schedule of the parties and the Court’s calendar. Along the way, the parties may have smaller hearings, if needed, to ensure discovery is answered and to handle other issues.
Dates are often pushed back as conflicts arise so the first date set is not always the actual date that happens. Once parties get to trial, the judge may take the matter under advisement and may issue a decision up to a month after the hearing date.
Will It Be Appealed?
Once the case is finished, the timeline for appealing begins. Not every case is appealed, but if the verdict is not in the favor of the injured party, he or she has the right to appeal the decision, which could delay the case even further.
If the other side appeals a verdict in favor of the injured party, the other side can appeal, as well. Appeals can take months to finalize and can even go up to a second appellate level to the state’s highest court, depending on the case. Of course, those situations are the extremes and not the norm.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions about whether you should settle or go to trial, an attorney can help review your case and discuss your options.
An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.