What Happens at a Workers’ Comp Hearing in Virginia?
A Virginia workers’ compensation claim sometimes goes into trial, most often because the insurer has denied the worker’s claim, and the worker is disputing the rejection. The trial consists of a hearing where both sides present their arguments to the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission (VWCC). For many claimants, this hearing can be nerve-wracking, especially as they go up against well-resourced insurance companies.
Here’s what to expect at a workers’ compensation hearing in VA and how to prepare for it. For legal advice specific to your case, do consult a trusted workers’ comp attorney.
What Happens at a Virginia Workers’ Comp Hearing?
At a Virginia workers’ comp hearing, the claimant and the insurance carrier (or the employer) each present their side of the story to a Deputy Commissioner from the VWCC. Each camp has the opportunity to provide evidence and bring in witnesses supporting their arguments.
The workers’ comp trial has a similar procedure as any court hearing, but in a more simplified form. Lawyers at a workers’ comp hearing typically do not make opening or closing statements. The Deputy Commissioner simply starts by swearing in witnesses, admitting evidence, and clarifying the disputed issue, before calling witnesses to the stand.
The claimant himself or herself will have to provide testimony under oath. Their testimony will be subject to direct examination (questioning by the claimant’s own attorney) and cross-examination (questioning by the other side’s lawyer).
There is no jury at a workers’ comp trial. Instead, the decision is made by the Deputy Commissioner.
How Long Does a Virginia Workers’ Comp Hearing Take?
The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission schedules each hearing for 30 minutes. If you believe your hearing should take longer, you or your attorney must contact the Commission in advance to make adjustments.
How Long Does It Take for the Commission to Make a Decision?
The Deputy Commissioner does not make the decision at the hearing, or even on the same day as the hearing. They will have to review all arguments and evidence before making a ruling based on the Commission’s guidelines. The decision-making can take as little as a few days or as long as a few months. The typical wait for the Workers Compensation Commission to make a decision is four to ten weeks. Once the written opinion is available, it will be sent to the claimant by mail.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Workers’ Comp Hearing?
Having an attorney for your workers’ comp hearing is not mandatory in Virginia. However, many claimants find it crucial to have a competent lawyer on their side.
Employers and their insurance carriers are often represented by highly experienced claims administrators and attorneys. Their experience gives them a distinct advantage in evidence-gathering and presentation, preparing witnesses, and cross-examining the other side’s witnesses. Without an attorney representing you, it can be extremely difficult to protect your case and level the playing field.
How Do I Prepare for My Workers’ Compensation Hearing?
It’s wise to reach out to a workers’ compensation lawyer before your hearing. Not only can your attorney represent you, they should also help you get ready for the hearing – legally, mentally, and emotionally. Here are some tips:
- What to wear: Dressing appropriately can show that you have respect for the court and are taking your claim seriously. Business-casual is appropriate for a workers’ comp hearing.
- What to bring: The hearing is your one and only chance to present evidence to the Deputy Commissioner. Work with your attorney to make sure all your exhibits (evidence) are ready for presentation. These might include medical records, accident report, photos of the scene and of your injury, pay stubs showing wage loss, job search documentation, and any other documentation related to your on-the-job injury.
- Witnesses: Usually, one witness is enough for each side, but you can discuss with your lawyer whether you need more. All witnesses must be present at the hearing. Written statements are not sufficient.
- Preparing for your testimony: When you are called to the stand to testify about your own claim, you want the Deputy Commissioner to find you credible. However, the other side’s lawyer will try to damage your credibility during cross-examination. To prepare for this, you and your attorney can discuss how to lay out your story, what questions to expect from the other camp, and how to handle their questioning approach.
What If The Deputy Commissioner Does Not Rule in My Favor?
In the event that the Deputy Commissioner’s Opinion is unfavorable to you, you have the option to pursue an appeal. You will not be able to admit new evidence in an appeal so it is best to be represented by a reputable attorney at your initial healing.
Talk to a Trusted Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Workers in Virginia trust Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski for their workers’ compensation case. Ms. Slominski has over 25 years of experience handling workers’ comp claims, hearings, and appeals, and her work has led to successful outcomes for her clients. She is ready to provide sharp legal advice and representation if your compensation claim is going to trial.
Contact Attorney Slominski about your workers’ compensation hearing. Call (434) 384-9400 in Lynchburg or (540) 554-3762 in Roanoke to get your consultation.