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The 4 Levels of Workers’ Compensation Litigation

Whenever I tell clients about the workers’ compensation litigation process in the District of Columbia, they have a blank look on their face. I receive questions such as, “What do you mean it takes 2 months to get a hearing date?” and, “What do you mean the insurance company can file an appeal?” The sad truth is that the workers’ compensation process in DC workers’ compensation cases can go on for what seems to be forever. This is one of the many reasons why it’s best to talk to an attorney from the onset. You do not want to hire an attorney when you are already in crisis mode and could have benefited from a hearing months prior. Although, we are able to many things, one thing attorneys cannot do is speed up the litigation process, as that process is controlled solely and entirely by the Legislature and the courts.

Stages in the Legal Process

In DC workers’ compensation cases, you start off at the Informal Conference level, which is more or less a mediation with no witnesses, except the injured worker, and nothing is recorded. From there, either party can appeal by requesting a Formal Hearing. The name pretty much says it all. It is a much more formal hearing, where both sides to the case can present witnesses and everything is recorded, bust during the formal hearing, rules of evidence also applies, and there can be formal discovery such as depositions. It takes several months to receive written decisions at both of these levels of litigation, 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 written decision. This appeal is done by written legal Memoranda only and the attorneys take care of it. They are filed with the Compensation Review Board and if the Board feels that there was an error of law, then the case will be sent back down for another Formal Hearing to get the case re-heard. If not, then the Formal Hearing decision is final. If, however, either party to the case is not happy with the decision of the Compensation Review Board, the case can be appealed for a fourth and final time with the DC Court of Appeals. This time, legal briefs are filed by the attorneys and argued in Judiciary Square before the Chief Judge and several others. The written decision of the Chief Judge is final.

Where To Go When You Need Help

The litigation process can be highly time consuming and tedious. I hope this blog shows you just how important it is to have an attorney representing you and your interests as the process is not just long, but also complex. If you are looking for more details on the litigation process, please do not hesitate to reach me at: LPisano@BSGFDLaw.com or 301-740-3304.

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