In an ideal world, every sick or injured worker in North Carolina would be treated fairly and paid appropriately. Sadly, many workers end up receiving significantly less medical treatment and benefits than they deserve. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Ricci Law Firm often witness unfair treatment of workers. If peaceful negotiations are unsuccessful, they may request a hearing to resolve the dispute. Here’s what you need to know about hearings:
A hearing is a formal proceeding
Although a workers’ compensation hearing technically is an “administrative proceeding” overseen by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, it is very similar to the civil trials we watch on television. The entire hearing is recorded by a court reporter. All witnesses who testify at a workers’ compensation hearing must swear under oath or affirm to the truth of the testimony. Instead of a judge, a “deputy commissioner,” presides over the hearing and has full authority to decide issues of credibility and to resolve all issues in dispute.
A final judgment takes time
Unlike in a civil trial, the deputy commissioner does not reach a final judgment immediately after the hearing, because, in a workers’ compensation case in North Carolina, the hearing is only one piece of the puzzle. Usually, only lay witnesses (such as the injured worker, co-workers, eyewitnesses, supervisors, and employer representatives) testify at the hearing. Expert witnesses, such as doctors, do not attend the hearing but usually testify later by deposition. The deputy commissioner reads the expert transcripts afterwards and then compiles all the information.
Because of this arrangement, the deputy commissioner usually does not issue his or her final Opinion and Award until several weeks or months after the hearing. This allows time for the deputy commissioner to consider carefully all the evidence.
The hearing location varies
The North Carolina Industrial Commission headquarters is in the Dobbs Building in downtown Raleigh. However, for hearings, the deputy commissioners are assigned to parts of the State and must travel for the convenience of the parties. Hearings sometimes take place in county courthouses or other government buildings such as state complexes.
The Commission also has regional offices to serve rural areas. To serve workers in Eastern North Carolina, the Industrial Commission currently has a regional office in Greenville. Although that regional office will close at the end of June, 2019, the Commission has promised the closing will not affect travel times for injured workers. Therefore, most likely the deputy commissioners from Raleigh will continue traveling to the Greenville area when needed to conduct hearings. Ricci Law Firm is watching this development closely to make sure injured workers in Eastern North Carolina continue to be served fairly.
Hearing testimony is binding on appeal
After a hearing, the parties may disagree with the long-awaited Opinion and Award. The parties may appeal, but all the hearing testimony is binding on appeal. This means that an injured worker (or an eyewitness, or any other person who testified) cannot change his or her story later. For this reason, it is important for everyone testifying at a hearing to make sure the testimony is completely accurate and true. The workers’ compensation specialists at Ricci Law Firm help their clients prepare for hearing and appeal.
If you have questions about a workers’ compensation hearing, contact a workers’ compensation attorney at Ricci Law Firm.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh
I’m Brian Ricci, a workers’ compensation lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury at work, please call me at (252) 777-2222 or 800-387-6406 for free, friendly advice.
I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Founder of the leading personal injury website: http://www.riccilawnc.com/personal-injury/