Witness Testimony in Workers' Compensation Claims
The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) administers the workers' compensation system, including the alternative court system that you must go through to exhaust your administrative remedies if an insurer denies your claim or you do not receive all the benefits to which you believe you are entitled. The first two steps in the dispute resolution process are conciliation and conference. Both are informal, although the latter occurs before an administrative law judge. If you or the insurer do not agree with the judge's determination at conference, both of you have the right to ask for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will hear witness testimony, among other things. The Boston workers’ compensation attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can assist you with gathering and presenting evidence in a persuasive manner.Witness Testimony in Workers' Compensation Claims
At the conference, the administrative law judge assigned to your case only reviews documentary evidence. You and the insurer must be present. The employer only needs to come if the claim involves the employee’s willful misconduct. You generally need to show the judge that you were disabled, the injury or sickness was work-related, and the disputed medical bills were incurred for reasonable, necessary medical care. Afterward, the judge issues a payment order or a denial. You and the insurer each have the option of appealing the payment order or denial within 14 calendar days.
When a conference order is appealed, the matter proceeds to a hearing before the same administrative law judge. The hearing is a formal proceeding similar to a trial in civil court. At this stage, all evidence must be submitted, including witness testimony. As with the conference, you and the insurer must both be present. The administrative law judge applies the Massachusetts Rules of Evidence. Witnesses provide sworn testimony and are cross-examined by the opposite side.
Under the Rules of Evidence, anyone can attack a witness' credibility, including whichever side called the witness. Layperson witnesses can testify to something only if evidence is introduced that supports a finding of personal knowledge on the part of the witness of whatever his or her testimony concerns. This rule does not apply to expert witnesses. For example, an insurer may call a vocational expert to testify about the extent of your disability (whether it is partial or full) and your ability to work after the injury.
A stenographer will record the hearing. Afterward, the judge will issue a written decision, either awarding benefits or denying them. The hearing judge's decision can be appealed to the Reviewing Board if either party believes the judge made an error of law in the decision. Issues of witness credibility are left to the judge's discretion, which means it can be crucial to be represented by an attorney at the conference stage, since this is when the same judge first hears your case and develops opinions about it.Consult a Dedicated Workers' Compensation Attorney in Boston or Beyond
At Pulgini & Norton, our skillful Boston workers' compensation lawyers advise and represent employees who have been injured or made ill in connection with work. We can make sure that the appropriate witness testimony is presented in connection with your claim. We represent injured workers in many Massachusetts cities, such as Weymouth, Brookline, and Lowell. Contact us at 781-843-2200 or through our online form to set up a free consultation with a workplace accident attorney.