A workers compensation hearing is scheduled after the applicant’s attorney files all necessary proof and a certificate of readiness, and the respondent worker’s compensation insurance company and employer have had their opportunity to file proof as well. If the parties cannot resolve a dispute, the DWD will schedule a formal hearing before an ALJ. The claimant is usually given the opportunity to choose where the initial hearing is held. If the claimant sustained the injury at a different location, the respondent may be given the opportunity to have the concluding hearing held at another location for the convenience of its own witnesses.
Parties cannot agree to a postponement without the department’s consent. If all the evidence cannot be presented in the 2 or 4 hours allotted, then a continued hearing will be scheduled months down the road. Unavailability of witnesses is a reason for a continued hearing and the department routinely grants continuances for the testimony of unavailable medical witnesses whose testimony cannot be adequately presented by report.
A party may compel witnesses to attend a hearing and may subpoena documents. Wis. Stats. Section 102.17(2s) requires paying witness and mileage fees. The judges often frown upon redundant or duplicitous witnesses, and often consider anyone other than the injured worker and the employer’s representative just such. Medical doctors live testimony is not favored unless unique medical issues are concerned.
The formality of a hearing depends on who is presiding. The rules of evidence apply less strictly than in a jury trial, but as in a trial to the court, everything that can be heard is not always informative of the decision. In general, a compensation hearing is not very different from a trial. Leading questions about matters not in dispute are encouraged. The ALJ may question a witness after direct examination and cross-examination. The nature of a compensation hearing lies somewhere between a formal adversarial proceeding and an informal inquiry.
A court reporter is present at the hearing, but the ALJ makes his or her own notes and later prepares a synopsis of the hearing. The full transcript is not prepared unless there is an appeal to the circuit court, and petitions for review are decided based on the ALJ’s synopsis.
The claimant’s attorney should be prepared at the outset of the hearing to state exactly the further benefits that are being claimed and what medical bills are asked to be paid.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys regularly go to a workers compensation hearing on cases that cannot be settled on terms favorable to our clients. Likelihood of success at hearing must be weighed against appellate review at LIRC and the time value of money.