As the injured worker is not entitled to a jury trial, she is entitled to an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing is also known as a bench trial. It is also known as the ” employee’s day in court”.
At the hearing, the judge will generally request information from the parties of the pending case. During this time, the lawyers will briefly layout their positions before the judge. Once the judge understands the hearing issues, the judge will “go on the record” and “call the case.” A court reporter will begin to record the proceeding. The judge will summarize the parties’ positions. If the claimant requested the hearing on the issues of compensability, the injured worker may present testimony to the judge. Before the injured employee may testify, she must be sworn under oath to tell the truth. The injured worker will be cross examined by the defense lawyer. The injured worker may also call other witnesses to support his case and tender documents such as medical records to the judge. After the claimant’s evidence is presented, the employee’s attorney may present evidence to justify why he or she is entitled to an assessment of attorney fees.
At the close of the injured worker’s case, the employer and insurance company may present its side of the story by calling its own witnesses such as supervisors or other employees. Moreover, the employer may submit competing or contrary medical records or other documents to disprove the claimant’s story. Once the employer and insurer finish their respective cases, the judge will likely close the record.
The judge will not issue a decision at this time. Instead, the parties will draft closing briefs to the judge which summarize their positions and highlights the documentary evidence tendered to the court. The judge will consider the briefs and weigh the evidence before it issues her findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Before an injured worker participates in an evidentiary hearing, it is vital that he or she is prepared by an experienced lawyer like Bryan Ramos of the Ramos Law Firm. Otherwise, the injured employee is taking a big risk with his or her entitlement to weekly disability compensation or medical benefits.