For many injured workers, a hearing at the Industrial Commission of Arizona may be their first time ever in a courtroom. It can be a very intimidating experience. I always tell my clients before hearings that, generally speaking, Industrial Commission hearings are very informal, and they have no reason to be nervous.
The hearings are conducted by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ), who are judges who hear only workers' compensation claims and have special knowledge of the workers compensation Act and laws. Their is no jury and all cases are decided by the judge. There is always a court reporter making a record of everything that is said at the hearing.
All witnesses are sworn in to tell the truth by the ALJ. The injured worker is almost always the first witness. If they are represented by an attorney, their attorney will ask them questions first, which is called "direct examination". That is followed by "cross examination" by the insurance carrier's attorney, which is usually to get testimony out of the applicant that is unfavorable to his or her case. The applicant's attorney then has a second chance to clarify anything that was covered during cross examination.
If the case involves the credibility of the injured worker, such as in determining whether an injury took place at work or was reported on time, both sides can call witnesses to testify on their behalf. If the issue is a medical issue, such as whether or not a surgery is necessary or if the condition resulted in a permanent impairment, both sides can call medical experts (doctors) to testify on their behalf. The doctors usually testify at a "further hearing" by telephone.
After all the testimony is taken, the ALJ usually issues a written decision within 30 days of the last hearing. Because the insurance carrier is ALWAYS represented by an attorney, it is advisable for the injured worker to be represented as well. Most workers comp attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that they only charge a fee if the case is won. If you have any questions about your Industrial Commission hearing, please schedule a free consultation with our Snow, Carpio, and Weekley Workers (Workmans) Compensation Attorneys.
Chad Snow, Alex Carpio, and Brian Weekley are attorneys who practice Workers Compensation law at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. They have offices in Tucson and Phoenix and can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000.