The Minnesota workers' compensation litigation process can be lengthy and confusing. Every case is different, involving unique facts, claims and defenses. Make sure you understand your rights and options. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney is the best person to answer your questions. Free assistance and information are also available from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI).
Call DLI's workers' compensation specialists at (651) 284-5032 or 1-800-342-5354. The DLI specialist cannot provide legal advice but can answer questions concerning the process.
The filing of a claim petition begins a formal litigation process. Not every case proceeds in exactly the same way but, generally, the steps in the litigation process include:
the filing of an answer to your claim by the employer/insurer;
a period of discovery often including the deposition of the employee (you) and possibly other witnesses;
an examination by a doctor of the employer's/insurer's choice;
assignment of the file to a compensation judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH);
a settlement conference;
a pretrail conference if the case does not settle; and
if the case does not settle, a hearing before the compensation judge at which your claims will be decided by the judge.
Discovery is a process where each party finds out about the basic facts of the claim and defense to the claim. Documents that are useful for settlement or a hearing are gathered, including medical records and bills, witness statements, wage information, etc. Information about the claim is compiled and exchanged between the attorneys. Depositions and examinations by expert witnesses are part of the discovery process.
In a deposition, you give testimony under oath. It is similar to testimony at a hearing, except there is no judge or jury present. Depositions of the employee and other witnesses are taken to find out what you or other witnesses know and to establish as many facts about the case before a hearing. Your employer or its insurer has the right to depose you. In addition, anyone who has information related to your case can be deposed.
Yes, you can be required to be examined by a doctor chosen and paid by the employer/insurer. The insurer's doctor will not treat you. The insurer's doctor will provide the employer/insurer with a report answering certain questions asked by the employer/insurer concerning your injury and claims.
An intervenor is a health care provider, insurance company, government agency or anyone else that has something to gain or lose in a hearing about your claim. Typically, an intervenor is seeking to be paid for a benefit it has provided for you, such as medical or chiropractic care.
You should provide your attorney with the details of all medical providers that have treated you for your work injury and any other health insurance you or your spouse have that may have paid for any of the medical treatment you received for your work injury. Also, be sure to tell your attorney about any wage-loss or income-replacement benefits you have received from any source (such as unemployment, or short-term or long-term disability benefits).
It is important you provide information about potential intervenors to your attorney because the lack of proper notification to any potential intervenors can delay your claim. This is true whether your claim is decided in a hearing before a judge or is resolved through a settlement agreement.
When people use the term "settlement," it refers to a written agreement reached by the employee and employer/insurer. It is usually prepared by the attorneys and signed by the employee and insurer. The agreement often requires an employee to give up the right to past and future benefits. In return, the employee receives a specific sum of money from the employer/insurer.
A settlement conference will automatically be scheduled to take place approximately six months after your claim petition is filed. The six months allows both sides to complete their discovery, take any depositions they wish to take, secure doctors' reports and make sure they fully understand the claims, defenses and likely value of the case. If less than six months is required for these steps, you can request a settlement conference be scheduled earlier.
A hearing is a formal trial of your claims before a compensation judge. It is similar to a District Court trial, but is not as formal. There are no juries in workers' compensation trials. Hearings are recorded so that a record can be transcribed in the event of an appeal.
You will testify at your hearing. Your attorney will ask you questions to help you explain to the judge how your injury occurred and all of the basic facts involved in your case. The attorney for the employer/insurer will also get to ask you question during a cross examination. Other witnesses may also be called. The attorneys will introduce into evidence various written exhibits, including your medical records, bills and wage-loss information.
Hearings in workers' compensation cases can usually be completed in half a day, but sometimes take longer. The judge should issue a decision within 60 days of your hearing. You may appeal a judge's decision if you disagree with it. The appeal will be heard at the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals.
The decision about whether to settle your case or proceed to a hearing is an important one. You should discuss this thoroughly with your attorney if you are represented. Make sure you understand the type of settlement the insurer is offering and what benefits your settlement will affect. Ask questions so that you clearly understand what you are giving up and what you are getting in return.
For example, if you agree to a full, final and complete settlement with only medical benefits open, the only type of benefit you can claim after the settlement are those medical benefits. You will receive no wage-loss benefits of any kind and no vocational rehabilitation services to assist in your return-to-work efforts. The trade-off is you will generally receive a lump-sum cash payment at the time of settlement.
If you don't see your question answered here or want more information about certified managed care, call the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at (651) 284-5005 or 1-800-342-5354.