What Happens at a Workers’ Compensation Hearing in Maryland?June 14, 2021
In Maryland and across the United States, a form of financial relief is available to assist individuals who become ill or get injured while on the job. This is known as Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation benefits are essential for injured or ill employees who not only lose their income, but also rack up costly medical bills for their care.
Unfortunately, the path to receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits is not always a smooth one. There are several possible reasons why a Workers’ Compensation claim might be disputed. Generally, if that happens, a Workers’ Compensation hearing is scheduled to assess the facts and determine if the employee is injured; if their injury is work related; and if so, how much compensation is to be paid out until the employee is able to resume working.
Because there is a lot at stake during a Workers’ Compensation hearing, it makes sense to hire a knowledgeable lawyer to lead the process and present the most effective case for benefits possible.
Workers’ Compensation in Maryland
Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance employers carry to protect their employees. But it does not apply to every employee in Maryland. Workers must meet certain state guidelines as to what constitutes a covered employee in Maryland. Freelancers and sole-proprietors, for example, are not considered employees and are not covered by Workers’ Compensation if they get hurt during the course of their job, unless the carry elective insurance.
It should also be noted that not every injury is compensable under Workers’ Compensation benefits, even if the injury occurred at work. According to the Maryland Workers’ Compensation statute, to receive benefits, the employee must suffer harm caused by an accidental personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment.
Imagine a worker who skips out of the office early on a Friday afternoon and gets in a car accident on their way home. After being rear-ended by the car behind them, they suffer a concussion and some broken bones. Those injuries are not likely to be covered by Workers’ Compensation. Although the employee was technically on the clock, they were not performing tasks related to their job when the injury occurred.
An Overview of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act allows the following types of benefits when appropriate:
Hospitalization/medical benefits. These include the costs of hospital and nursing services, medications, crutches and other medical aids and devices, and artificial limbs and prosthetic devices for as long as is medically necessary.
Vocational rehabilitation benefits. Some workplace injuries effectively end the employee’s career as they once knew it. The state offers compensation to fund various vocational services to train and place the worker in a new job.
Temporary partial disability benefits. This is compensation for an employee who becomes temporarily disabled for a temporary period of time. Generally, a person receiving temporary partial disability can work, but in a limited capacity for less money.
Temporary total disability benefits. An injured worker who is disabled to a point they cannot work in any capacity receives temporary total disability benefits until the time they can return to work in some capacity or have reached what a doctor determines to be maximum medical improvement.
Permanent partial disability benefits. A permanent partial disability is an injury that involves some irreversible impairment but does not render the person totally disabled. The amount and duration of payments are calculated according to the statute and vary based on the specific body part that is injured.
Permanent total disability benefits. Some injuries are so extensive that they effectively render the person permanently disabled. In Maryland, specifically, the loss of both arms, both hands, both feet, or both eyes are a few of the serious injuries considered permanent disabilities. These benefits are usually paid for the remainder of the worker’s life.
Common Reasons for Workers’ Compensation Hearings in Maryland
It is clear there is some gray area when it comes to what constitutes a compensable Workers’ Compensation injury in the state of Maryland. Employers and insurance companies are eager to capitalize on this gray area and seek any reason to dispute a claim and save money. A hearing is scheduled when a claim is disputed.
Here are some common reasons for a Workers’ Compensation hearing:
- The employer/insurer disputes an injury exists.
- The employer/insurer denies the injury occurred at work.
- The employer/insurer does not agree lost wages are payable.
- The employer/insurer denies certain medical treatments are necessary.
- The employer/insurer denies the injury occurred during the course of the employee’s work tasks.
- The employer/insurer denies the case meet the guidelines of a Workers’ Compensation claim.
- The employer/insurer dispute the extent or rating of the injury and if and when the employee should return to work.
What to Expect in a Maryland Workers’ Compensation Hearing
Workers’ Compensation hearings are similar to traditional court proceedings in many ways, although they are not quite as formal. The primary difference between the two is Workers’ Compensation hearings have no jury. Instead, someone called a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner presides over the case, which is held before the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Lawyers are present. When a new case is heard, the employee takes the witness stand, along with their Workers’ Compensation lawyer. An lawyer representing the employer and the insurance company is also present. In some cases, a lawyer representing an entity called the Subsequent Injury Fund may also attend the hearing.
Testimony and evidence are given. The worker testifies about the accident that caused their injuries, the treatment involved, and their recovery process and prognosis. Their lawyer supports their claims with medical records, accident reports, expert witness testimony, and other evidence.
The insurance company’s lawyer can ask the employee questions about their injury: how it happened, what treatment they are receiving, and if they have had any other injuries since the one in question.
A decision is made. The Workers’ Compensation Commissioner listens to all testimony, reviews the evidence and the lawyers’ closing statements, and makes a determination. The decision process can take anywhere from a day to several weeks. The Workers’ Compensation hearing itself can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours, depending on the complexities of the case.
What Should I Do if the Hearing Does Not Go in My Favor?
An employee who is not satisfied with a commissioner’s determination can request another hearing in writing, within 15 days of the decision. Although this option is available, it is not commonly granted. New evidence or a legal error may help make the case for a new hearing.
If a request for a new hearing is denied, the employee and their lawyer have 30 days to file an appeal in Circuit Court. At this stage, it is presumed the commissioner made the correct decision, and the employee’s legal team must prove why the decision was wrong. If the employee loses this case, they have one final option. They can appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Workers’ Compensation Hearing?
For a seriously injured worker with bills to pay or a family to support, Workers’ Compensation benefits are an essential lifeline for financial security while the worker recovers after a job accident. Proving that an accident happened at work and is compensable under the law is the key to a smooth claim process.
Any mistakes in the claim process can cost a worker this essential compensation. That is why anyone who has become injured on the job or contracted an occupational illness should enlist the guidance of a skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer.
Dealing with large corporations and their team of lawyers can be intimidating. But with an experienced advocate leading the case, workers can feel more confident they are making the right choices and presenting the strongest possible case for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
When it comes to a Workers’ Compensation hearing, the lawyer’s job is to gather all of the relevant evidence and witness testimony to show how and why an injury happened and why it qualified for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Going further into the appeals process can be costly and time consuming. With the assistance of a lawyer, the employee can weigh the pros and cons to decide the next best step after a Workers’ Compensation claim is denied.
Finally, there are tight deadlines to file an appeal for a denied claim. The deadlines do not leave much time for an injured worker to make critical decisions and gather evidence. With a Workers’ Compensation lawyer managing their case, the worker can trust they are completing all of the right steps on time to increase their chance of a good outcome.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Provide Superior Legal Representation for Clients with Workers’ Compensation Hearings
Just like any plaintiff would want an experienced lawyer to represent them in court, the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton represent injured employees facing Workers’ Compensation hearings in Maryland. Testifying before a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner can be daunting. But our team is here to prepare you for court, gather the proper evidence, and build the strongest case possible to help you obtain the benefits for which you are entitled under Maryland Workers’ Compensation law. Call us at 844-556-4LAW or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.