If your workers’ compensation claim, or some portion of your claim, has been denied by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, you will likely be going to a hearing before a workers’ compensation Deputy Commissioner at the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Too often, injured workers call my office in a panic because they are going to a hearing and don’t know what to expect and they don’t have an attorney to guide them.
What You Need to Know
- Dress appropriately- Deputy Commissioners are officers of the court and require you to dress respectfully. I tell people business or business casual is appropriate. Irritating the Deputy Commissioner before the hearing even gets underway is not a good way to start! No matter what, no baseball caps!
- Hearings are set for 30 minutes – If your case will take longer than 30 minutes to be heard, you need to contact the Commission, or your attorney if you are represented, so that proper accommodations for a longer time slot can be made.
- Evidence – A hearing is the only time you can present evidence. If you get a report or find a witness supporting your case after the hearing, it is too late. Make sure you have sent any and all documentation about your case (work slips, job search documentation, accident report, medical reports and witness information) to the Commission and/or to your attorney before the hearing! These documents need to be filed with the Commission and presented as evidence during the hearing (called exhibits).
- Witnesses- Witnesses can be called to testify at a hearing. A witness must be present to testify at a hearing. A written statement is not sufficient.
- Testimony– Typically, you will be asked to testify at your hearing- these are your benefits after all! You need to make sure you are clear on your testimony (injury, medical history, and job search activities) and defenses before you take the stand. If you have an attorney, this will be discussed with them prior to your hearing.
- Decisions- The Deputy Commissioner does not make a ruling at the hearing. You are notified by the Commission of the Deputy Commissioner’s ruling in writing (called an “Opinion”). This is sent to you by mail four to eight weeks after the hearing takes place.
- Appeals – If you get an Opinion that is unfavorable from the Deputy Commissioner, you do have the right to appeal within thirty days to request that the matter be heard before the Full Commission. Either side can appeal the decision to the Full Commission. It generally takes anywhere from six to twelve months to get a ruling from the Full Commission.
Hopefully, this will help you all get a better idea of what to expect when you go to a hearing.
If you are going to a hearing at the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, I strongly recommend talking to an attorney beforehand. It is very hard to get an attorney to take your case if you have already been to a hearing and lost! An attorney can’t fix the lack of evidence after the hearing- your one shot is gone…
If you are dealing with a work injury or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
Michele Lewane, Esq.