What Happens When Your Workers’ Compensation Case Goes To Trial

Host:

Katherine Stone from Injury Florida Law is back today to help break down workers’ compensation by discussing what it really means for you when your case goes to trial. Welcome back, Katherine.

Host:

So I’m thinking workers’ comp, your case goes to trial, you’re sitting pretty.

Katherine:

Well first of all, they’re not technically called trials. They’re called final hearings.

Katherine:

So one of the first things that I learned when I started doing workers’ comp over 15 years ago was there is no jury in workers’ comp. It is administrative law, which means it is handled by an administrative law judge. So first thing that I have to explain to clients is there is no jury. It is a judge. Secondly, the judge can only award benefits that have been requested. So in other words, the judge cannot decide how much your case is worth. The judge cannot tell the employer carrier, “You must pay Mr. or Mrs. Claimant X amount of money to settle their case.” That’s one of the things that I have to have discussions with clients all the time, especially if they don’t feel like they’re getting a fair deal. “Well, I’ll just go in front of the judge.” Well, it’s not that easy.

Katherine:

Then secondly, we can only get in front of a judge if I have filed what’s called a petition for benefits, claiming … Then there’s only certain categories that I can request a benefit. Loss and wages, medical care, future medical care, future lost wages. There’s only certain little categories, but I can’t file something just because you think you should get it. So then it’s up to the judge to decide, “Okay. From looking at the medical testimony and looking at your testimony, Mr. or Mrs. Claimant, and just the evidence as a whole, does he have to order or does the judge order the employer carrier to provide that benefit?”

Host:

So it’s one of those things where I think it’s key then, because people must come in there all the time … That’s why we’re talking about it today.

Katherine:

Right.

Host:

Thinking that the judge can impact that, but you’ve got strict guidelines that you’re following to take to the judge.

Katherine:

Correct. One of the issues, and I have this recently with several cases, is as we have talked about before, workers’ comp gets to select your doctors. You very rarely get to select your doctors. You can only select your independent medical evaluator, which is basically your expert, or potentially your one-time change if they fail to provide a doctor within five days. Those are the only two scenarios. I consistently have clients that say, “Well, I don’t like the work comp doctor. He or she is not doing enough for me, so I’m going to go to my own doctor,” and then brings me reports saying, “Well, this doctor says this.” I can’t do a whole lot with that. I can file it, but it’s not evidence that the judge has to rely upon.

Katherine:

So that’s really, really hard for my clients to understand. I do try to lay that groundwork in the beginning in the sense of, “This is the system. Unfortunately, we have to play within the rules of the system.” Sometimes they like it and sometimes they don’t.

Host:

You know, Katherine, it seems like so many times when you are here, I’ve learned through the years that you are in an educational role, if you will.

Katherine:

Every day. Not only am I gathering information, but I’m also educating the client on what we can and what we cannot do.

Host:

Because again, right out of the gate, I just said something about a trial. That’s even the basics and I didn’t even know that.

Katherine:

Right.

Host:

What do you want people to keep in mind though when they are faced with a workers’ compensation situation?

Katherine:

I would highly suggest getting in touch with us to be able to talk about your case because again, sooner rather than later, so that I can help guide you through the process because as we’ve talked about many times now for several years, the process is extensive and it can go on for many, many years in some cases.

Host:

Well, there you go. I don’t think I can follow up any better than having Katherine on your side. If you’re interested in more information or possibly going through a workers’ compensation case that could be not going to trial, but going to …

Katherine:

Final hearing.

Host:

There you go. Final hearing. There’s the information you see on the screen, so you can get in touch with her today. Thank you again.

INJURY FLORIDA LAW FIRM, P.A.
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