Top 10 Things to Do At a BWC Hearing
1. Dress for success. Hearing officers need to see you are serious about your claim and serious about its outcome. If you have a business suit, wear it. But dress conservatively (not a lot of jewelry, please), and go light on the perfume or cologne. Do not wear a ball cap to the hearing. The hearing officer should be focused on the seriousness of your injury - not on your appearance or aroma.
2. Be aware that each hearing officer is different, and that each has his or her own views and outlooks on life. Some are employee friendly, and some are employer friendly. Don’t be discouraged if we end up appealing a decision. This is normal.
3. Make eye contact with the hearing officer.
4. Tell the truth. The employer’s lawyer and the hearing officer have the opportunity to ask you questions about your injury, and may ask you questions about the incident causing the injury. They will want to make sure the story you tell in the hearing matches the story in the documentation (especially the medical reports). Be honest and forthright at all times, even if you think the answer may damage your case. One white lie can ruin a claim, so telling the same truth all the way through is best.
5. The hearing officer will have your complete medical records in front of them during the hearing. Do not wear a neck brace if it was not prescribed by your doctor. Do not come to the hearing with crutches unless your doctor prescribed them. These items detract from your credibility if they are used just for show.
6. Let your attorney know if you made any mistakes in your initial paperwork. It is helpful to know up front if there are any errors or inconsistencies in the paperwork, and you certainly don’t want to be blind-sided during the hearing. For example, if you state your back blew while lifting a box on May 5, it would not be helpful to find out in the hearing you worked 12 hour days May 6 and 7 digging ditches.
7. Keep your answers short. Answer the question asked as directly as possible, in the least number of words possible. Please do not answer more than what was asked, as you do not want your answers to be jumping points for even more questions by the employer or hearing officer.
8. Hearing officers are not interested in other employees’ injuries, or your life story. The only thing at issue in the hearing is your injury and its relationship to your employer.
9. Don’t be afraid to tell your lawyer about another injury aggravated or caused by working for your employer, especially if you have been talking to your doctor about it. The workers’ compensation system is designed to help all your injuries heal.
10. Hearings usually last from 5 to 20 minutes. The lawyers usually do most of the talking. Your speaking “role” will usually only be a couple of minutes, so there is no reason to be afraid of the hearing.
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