Workers' Compensation

I just want my day in court. That’s reasonable, right?

It is a very normal sentiment. But workers’ compensation is not like the kind of court you see on television or read about in the newspaper. The Industrial Commission has limited authority and one of the key things it cannot do is probably what many people whish they could do: order a lump sum payment to compensate your for future losses. By law, they cannot do it.

Looking at what the Industrial Commission can award it makes sense to divide cases into denied claims and accepted claims. In a denied claim the Industrial Commission has the authority to award you all the past weekly wages and the cost of your medical treatment. Whatever you should have gotten you will receive as a single lump sum. The Industrial Commission then may require the adjuster to continue paying you weekly and continue sending you to the doctor. If your doctor has already given you a rating the Industrial Commission may award you that rating. The Industrial Commission cannot order defendants to pay you for what you expect to lose in the future due to lower wages and they cannot order defendants to give you $10,000.00, $50,000.00, or more even just $1,000.00 for future medical treatment. They can only order defendants to pay for those as they are incurred.

If you have an accepted claim the Industrial Commission’s powers are even more limited: they can required the insurance company to continue paying you weekly or pay you your rating. They can also order ongoing medical treatment. They cannot order a lump sum payment for future losses.

The other thing to keep in mind about your day in court is that it’s not really a day! You will have a hearing before a deputy commissioner on a specific day. The lawyers will then be given 60 days to talk to your treating physicians. After that the lawyers will have another 30 days to submit written arguments to the deputy commissioner. Once the Industrial Commission has received all of the information the deputy commissioner usually takes 90-120 days to issue a decision in the case. Realistically your day in court will not be over for six to seven months.

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