Your workers’ comp hearing just got postponed for the 3rd time and your attorney tells you it’s normal. How can this be right? Your claim was turned down by the insurance company or your weekly income benefits were suspended, and you’ve been without medical care and income for months and are in pain and on the verge of financial ruin while it seems the insurance company’s attorney keeps delaying your hearing without good reason.
What you want to know is; “Can the workers’ comp insurance company keep postponing your workers’ comp hearing without just cause?” The answer is: “No.”
The One Thing that Causes the Hearing to Be Postponed:
Your workers’ comp hearing cannot be postponed without just cause or reasonable legal excuse. However, the judge will postpone the first setting of your hearing on the grounds that discovery (the gathering of information or evidence through interrogatories, requests for production, depositions etc.) can’t be completed by the hearing date, which is usually set within 30 to 45 days from the hearing request. The discovery methods used in workers’ comp cases are the same methods used in civil cases. But in civil cases you get 6 months of discovery before your trial date is set. In workers’ comp cases, you don’t get a fixed period of discovery before the hearing date is set. Therefore, you pretty much are guaranteed that your hearing will be postponed a few times while discovery is going on. After the first setting, however, the employer and its insurance company must have a legal excuse to postpone the hearing. A legal excuse would include a legal conflict of the insurance company attorney – another hearing on the same day as yours in a different venue that was requested before yours, or a medical request to a hospital or doctor on your case that has yet to be responded to. A majority of judges will require the attorneys to conduct a telephone conference call and provide proof of their reasons for requesting a postponement of the hearing before making a decision granting or denying the postponement.
Keep in mind that written discovery such as interrogatories, requests for admission and requests for production of documents can’t be sent until a hearing request is filed. We send written discovery to the employer and insurance company at the same time the hearing request is filed. Responses are due within 30 days. You and the employer’s representative may require additional time to gather your documents and evidence to respond to the written questions and extensions to respond to written discovery are routinely given.
We at Affleck & Gordon use our best practices to try to speed up the discovery process by having our medical evidence ready before requesting a hearing and by requesting the scheduling of our client’s deposition as soon as practicable. You may also help to speed up the discovery process and ultimately your hearing by providing information and documents as quickly as you can. If you have prior medical records or your medical history on a CD, you should also provide these to your attorney promptly, so your attorney can have any prior injuries or conditions addressed by your treating doctor.