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Workers' Compensation Blog

The DC Workers’ Compensation Litigation Process

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Whenever I tell clients about the workers compensation litigation process in DC, they get a blank look on their face. What do you mean it takes two to three months to get a hearing date? What do you mean the insurance company can file an appeal if I win my case?

The unfortunate truth is that the litigation process in DC workers’ compensation cases can go on seemingly forever. This is one of the many reasons why it’s best to talk to an attorney from the onset. The time to hire an attorney is not when you are already in crisis mode and would have benefit from a hearing moths prior. Attorneys are able to do many beneficial things for their clients, but one thing they cannot do is speed up the DC litigation process, as that process is controlled solely and entirely by the DC Legislature and the courts.

In DC workers' compensation cases, the litigation process begins at an Informal Conference. This level is, more or less, a mediation where nothing is recorded, the parties are not under oath and the only witness is the injured worker. Either party is able to appeal from the written decision received following an Informal Conference. Those appeals go to a DC Formal Hearing in which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presides over the hearing. A formal hearing is much more complex than an informal conference. Each side to the case can present witnesses, the witnesses are under oath, the proceedings are recorded, and the rules of evidence apply. There is also almost always formal discovery conducted by both sides of the case. The discovery process can include written requests for information (such as interrogatories or request for production of documents) or verbal request (such as depositions of doctors or the injured worker).

It takes several months to receive a written decision from both the DC Formal Hearing Judge. But, the process does not stop there. After the Formal Hearing, either party can, yet again, file an appeal if they are not happy with the ALJ’s decision. This appeal is done by written legal Memoranda only, and does not involve an actual hearing. The legal memoranda are prepared by the attorneys and filed with the Compensation Review Board (CRB). If the CRB feels that there was an error of law, or that the ALJ’s decision was not based upon ‘substantial evidence,’ then the case will be sent back down to the ALJ for another Formal Hearing to get the case re-heard. If the CRB agrees with the ALJ, then the case will not be sent back down to the ALJ, and the ALJ’s decision will be final unless, of course, another appeal is filed.

If either party to the case is not happy with the decision of the CRB, the case can be appealed for a fourth and final time to the DC Court of Appeals. This time, legal Briefs are filed by the attorneys and argued before the Chief Judge and several other Court of Appeals Judges. The written decision of the DC Court of Appeals is truly final. The DC Court of Appeals can either affirm (agree with) the ALJ, or, the Court of Appeals can reverse (disagree with) the ALJ’s decision and send the case back down to the Formal Hearing level with instructions for the judge. If that occurs, the process can, more or less, start over again.

I hope that this blog shows you just how important it is to have an attorney representing you and your interests in your DC workers’ compensation case.The process can not only be lengthy, but can also be fairly complex. If you are looking for more details on the litigation process, please do not hesitate to reach me at lpisano@bsgfdaw.com or 301-740-3304.

Where Do I File My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Maryland or D.C.?

Monday, July 09, 2018

It is sometimes very obvious where an injured workers should file his workers’ compensation claim following an on-the-job injury.For example, if the injured worker lives in the District of Columbia, and has always worked for his employer in the District, and gets injured in the District, then the claim for workers’ compensation benefits naturally should be filed in the District.

However, the situation becomes a bit more complicated when the injured worker does not get injured in the state where he normally works, or when the injured worker performs work for the employer in more than one state.In this blog, I will give a few different scenarios that tend to occur, in order to figure out where your workers’ compensation claim should be filed.

Scenario #1: The injured worker regularly works in Maryland, but happens to travel to the District of Columbia for work, and happens to be injured while performing that work for the employer in the District.

In the first scenario, under 32-1503 of the District of Columbia Workers’ Compensation Act, the District will not have jurisdiction over this claim.Having only “casual, occasional, or incidental” employment in the District is not enough.The workers’ compensation claim in that scenario should be filed in Maryland.

Scenario #2: The injured worker and the employer are both residents of Maryland, but the injured worker was assigned to do work for the employer in the District of Columbia for an extended period of time (weeks and months) and was injured in the District.

In the second scenario, the claim may be able to be filed in either Maryland OR in DC, with one caveat.The DC Worker’s Compensation Statute says that, if both the injured worker and the employer are not residents of the District, and the contract for hire was entered into in another State (like Maryland) then even though the injured worker had performed work for the Employer for an extended period of time in the District, and was injured in the District, the injured worker MAY be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in the District, but only if, the employer has workers’ compensation coverage in the District.So, in that second scenario, if the employer had insurance cover in the District, the claim for workers’ compensation benefits can be filed in EITHER Maryland or the District.If the employer does not have workers’ compensation coverage in the District, then the claim would have to be filed in the State of Maryland.

Scenario #3: The injured worker is hurt in the State of Maryland while performing work for a District of Columbia Employer and normally works in the District of Columbia.

Under 9-203 of Maryland Workers’ Compensation Statute, Maryland shares the same principal as the District such that “casual, occasional, or incidental” work in Maryland, when the employment is located and performed primarily in another jurisdiction (like DC), will not be enough to enable the injured employee to file a workers’ compensation claim in Maryland.

Scenario #4: The injured worker performs work for the employer in Maryland, DC and Virginia, but gets injured in DC, but both he and his employer are residents of Maryland.

This last scenario occurs often with transit drivers.In this scenario, the injured worker is not an incidental, casual or occasional employee of the District, but rather, has worked for the employer in the District on a regular basis for years.In this fourth scenario, because both the injured worker and the employer are both residents of Maryland (with, for example, the employee picking up his bus to begin his bus route at the Maryland headquarters) the injured worker would be able to file his workers’ compensation claim in both Maryland AND the District of Columbia, if and only if, the employee can prove that he is not an incident employee in the District.If the injured worker can testify that works as much or (better yet) more often in the District than he does in Maryland or Virginia, and again, is hurt in the District, then his claim for workers’ compensation benefits could be filed in the District.However, if the evidence shows that the employee works only a small percentage of the time in District, and works primarily in Maryland and Virginia, then the District of Columbia would not accept his workers’ compensation claim and the State of Maryland would be his only option.

If any additional information is needed, I can be reached by email:lpisano@bsgfdlaw.com, or on my direct office number: 301-740-3304

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