What Does It Mean If My Employer Applies for Hearing in My Virginia Workers’ Comp Case?
If you’ve been notified that your employer has applied for a hearing in your workers’ compensation case, it means that they wish to suspend, modify, or terminate your benefits for a reason. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWCC) may hold a hearing on this matter. You must be prepared to assert your side, especially in regard to the reason that your employer has raised in their hearing application.
What is This Hearing That My Employer Has Applied For?
An Employer’s Application for Hearing is a request made by your employer to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission to suspend, modify, or terminate your ongoing indemnity benefits, also known as wage loss payments.
Your employer may file this hearing application if they or their insurance company has found a reason to stop your benefits. (We discuss more about these reasons below.) The purpose of the hearing is for the Commission to decide whether or not they agree with the employer’s request.
Having this hearing application filed doesn’t automatically mean there will be a hearing. The Commission will give you a chance to respond before they decide if the case goes to the hearing docket. If it does, you will receive a hearing schedule, which you must attend – ideally with an attorney.
Note also that if the VWCC accepts your employer’s hearing application, it doesn’t automatically mean that the Commission agrees to terminate your benefits for good. It only means that a hearing will be set. It is through this hearing that the Commission will decide on whether to stop or continue your benefits.
What Reasons Can My Employer Use to Apply for a Hearing?
These are reasons for your employer to request a hearing for benefit termination, modification, or suspension:
- You have returned to pre-injury work.
- A doctor has released you to return to pre-injury work.
- You’ve returned to light-duty work.
- Your current disability is allegedly unrelated to your job accident.
- You allegedly failed to show up to an employer-requested medical exam.
- You allegedly refused selective employment for your light-duty capacity.
- You allegedly refused medical treatment deemed necessary.
- You allegedly failed to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation efforts.
The VWCC also considers other reasons such as employee’s failure to report all earnings, or employee receiving a personal injury settlement related to the work injury.
Your employer and their insurance company will take any misstep on your part as a reason to stop your benefits. It’s wise for you to get the guidance and protection of a workers’ compensation attorney.
What Do I Do If My Employer Has Applied for a Workers’ Comp Hearing?
The VWCC will examine the employer’s application to see if it is technically acceptable. If it is, you must file your response within 15 days of the application date. Your response should include evidence to oppose the employer’s requested hearing. This evidence needs to counter your employer’s stated reason for wanting to stop your benefits.
Your response is also key in convincing the Commission to continue your benefits pending the hearing. By procedure, if the VWCC accepts your employer’s application, your wage loss benefits will be suspended. But if your response gives a compelling reason that the payments should continue, the Commission may decide in your favor and order to resume the payments while the hearing is pending.
It’s worth consulting a lawyer when forming your response. Much of the dispute will hinge on Virginia workers’ comp rules, which an experienced attorney should be able to navigate. With their in-depth knowledge of the law, they can help you write an argument and present evidence that weakens your employer’s claim.
What Happens To My Benefits If My Employer Has Applied for a Workers’ Comp Hearing?
This depends on whether the hearing application is accepted or denied.
If the VWCC accepts the hearing application, procedure dictates that your wage loss payments will be suspended pending the hearing. To have your payments reinstated, you need to convince the Commission that you should continue receiving benefits while waiting for the final decision at the hearing. If the Commission agrees with you, your payments will resume immediately.
On the other hand, if the VWCC rejects your employer’s application, this employer must keep paying you your wage loss benefits. They have the option to appeal the Commission’s decision.
What Happens At A Workers’ Comp Hearing?
If your employer’s application has been referred to the hearing docket, you must attend the scheduled hearing and ideally be represented by a workers’ comp lawyer.
A workers’ comp hearing is similar to any other court trial, but less formal. The Deputy Commissioner will swear in witnesses, admit evidence, and clarify the disputed issue. He or she will then call witnesses to the stand. Witnesses may be cross-examined by the other party’s lawyer. You, as the employee, must prepare to provide your own testimony and be cross-examined as well. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
The opposition is very skilled at advocating for their position and they may have years of experience presenting before hearings. You will be called on and they will skillfully try to get you to say what they want you to say. If you are not represented by an attorney, be cautious and give short, limited replies when questioned by them. You want to fully develop the record in your favor when asked by the Deputy Commissioner but be very cautious in what you say to the opposing attorney. For more tips on what to expect and how to prepare for a workers’ comp hearing, please read our blog post here.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Worker’s Comp Hearing?
Though this is not mandatory, having a workers’ comp attorney can be vital for you to get a favorable outcome. Your lawyer will help you craft an effective response for you to keep your benefits while the hearing is pending. At the hearing itself, your attorney should present evidence in the most compelling manner, and highlight weaknesses in your employer’s case.
You can expect your employer to be represented by their own lawyer or an insurer with extensive experience undermining claims like yours. With an attorney, you can level the playing field and protect what’s rightfully yours.
How Long After the Benefits Hearing Will I Get the Decision?
The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission usually takes days or weeks to make a decision after a benefits hearing. You and your employer will be notified by writing of the Commission’s decision.
Talk to an Experienced Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Virginia
For over 25 years now, Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski has been a trusted ally of Virginia workers. Her strategic and assertive work has helped numerous employees protect their benefits, even when the Virginia workers’ compensation system gets highly complicated.
If you’ve received a hearing notice, or if your employer is threatening to stop your workers’ comp benefits, contact Attorney Slominski. Call our office at (434) 384-9400 (in Lynchburg) or (540) 554-3762 (in Roanoke).