What happens at a first hearing for a Claim Petition depends on the specific judge your case is assigned to. Many judges will take the injured worker's testimony at the first hearing. This testimony is given under oath, and both your attorney and the attorney for your employer will have a chance to ask you questions.
You can forget about the courtroom scenes that you have seen on television. The lawyer for the workers' comp carrier will be professional and courteous. You will be expected to testify about your personal information, including your name, address, birth date, education and work history. You may be asked if you have a criminal history or if you have ever received workers’ compensation benefits before.
You will also be asked about the specific accident and your current injury, along with how the injury occurred, who you told about the injury at work, your current physical or mental limitations and your current and ongoing medical treatment.
A record of your testimony will be made by a court reporter, and it will be relied upon when the judge makes his or her final determination in your case. Of course, it is very important to be honest when answering both attorneys' questions.
Some judges use a first hearing as a “Pre-Trial Conference.” These hearings will be typically very short (less than 10 minutes in duration) and the judge will simply ask the lawyers what factual and legal issues are involved in the case. The judge will also set a timeline for completion of all evidence in your case. Typically, the injured worker's attorney is given 90 days from the date of the first hearing to complete their side of the case, and the employer is given an additional 90-days to complete their side. The injured worker will then come back about 60 to 90 days from the date of the Pre-Trial Conference to testify live before the judge.
Getting hurt on the job is unfamiliar territory for most workers. Injured workers typically have a number of questions about the process. It is important that you sit down and discuss your testimony and case with an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney. Obtaining legal representation is the best measure you can take to ensure that all of your rights are protected. At Metzger Wickersham, we have two attorneys who are certified as specialists by the Pennsylvania Bar Association as approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Contact our PA workers' comp attorneys today for your free consultation!