What should I expect in my final workers’ compensation hearing (I’m nervous and I have never been in Court before)?
Mississippi Workers’ Compensation trials are not like the trials you see on Law and Order. There is no jury and no audience. There are usually just a few people in a small room. Just a judge, you, your attorney, a representative of your Employer, and your Employers attorney will attend the hearing. Sometimes, there may be witnesses there who know something important about the case. Doctors usually give their testimony through their records or a deposition transcript which can be introduced at the hearing. The atmosphere for the hearing is laid back and not meant to stress the parties involved.
Sometimes, before the hearing gets started, the Judge will take the attorneys into chambers to discuss legal issues in the case and perhaps pry about why the case has not been settled. Don’t be worried about being left out of the loop. Your employer does not go to chambers either. Sometimes, without the parties in the room who have a lot at stake, the lawyers and Judge can be more frank and cut to the chase. Back door deals aren’t being done behind your back in these meetings. They are common place in almost every court system and they are very effective in streamlining a trial and in making sure that all attempts to resolve the case have been exhausted.
Assuming there is no settlement, the Judge will call the hearing to order and permit your attorney to call the first witness. Very often the first witness will be you. Your attorney will ask you questions about what happened to you at work, your medical treatment, and how you are doing now.
Then the defense attorney will be allowed to ask you questions. Be completely honest, but be clear and adamant about what happened to you and how it has impacted your ability to function or earn wages. Loss of function or loss of ability to work is the threshold question in a final hearing. Pain and suffering is not something you can be compensated for, but if pain impacts your abilities, then your attorney very well may ask you in depth question about it.
Your attorney will then have another chance to ask you questions if they need to follow up on anything.Â After you testify, your attorney can call other witnesses, if necessary. It is not uncommon to rest after calling the injured worker because they will have already said everything necessary to combine with the medical documentation laying out proof for loss of function or earning ability. The attorney for the Employer and Carrier will have an opportunity to ask questions to the Employer’s representative or witnesses. You will be sitting beside your attorney and will be able to pass your attorney notes during the representative’s testimony if you need to. After the witness answers the questions that his attorney has, your attorney will be able to ask him questions as well.
The Judge will listen to all of the testimony and begin to think about his or her decision. You wonâ€™t get a decision on the spot like on TV. Usually it takes judges months to look at all of the evidence and testimony presented and make a decision. They issue their opinions in writing and outline the basis for their decisions. After the Judge rules, your attorney should let you know and discuss all of the options with you.
Amanda G. Hill
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