I always tell my clients not to be too nervous about their hearing at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. But for someone who has never been in a courtroom, the hearing can be a very nerveracking experience. If you know a little about what to expect, it may help calm your nerves, which may help your testimony before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) sound more believable.
First, usually the only people in the courtroom are the injured worker, his or her attorney, the attorney for the insurance carrier, a court reporter, and the ALJ. If either party has called any witnesses, they are in the courtroom at the beginning of the proceedings, but are usually sent out during the testimony of other witnesses. Unlike in Superior Court, you don't need to stand up when the ALJ enters the room. However, you should always address the judge as "Your Honor".
The ALJ swears in every witness before they testify with an oath to tell the truth. The injured worker is then asked questions by their attorney in what is called "direct examination". Then the attorney for the insurance carrier has an opportunity to "cross examine" the witness. The applicant's attorney then has one more chance to clarify anything he or she feels was not made clear during the cross examination.
I always tell my clients to answer the questions to the judge, not to me. I already believe them - the judge is the one they need to convince. Also, it is important to remember that the court reporter is taking down everything that is being said to make a record in case either side wants to appeal the judge's decision, so it is important to wait until the other person is done talking before you start answering. Also, although the attorneys and the judge may joke around because they know each other well, I always tell my client to be very serious during the proceedings.
Chad T. Snow is an attorney who practices exclusively in the area of workers compensation in Arizona. He has done over 5,000 hearings at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. With offices in Phoenix and Tucson, he can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000 or at his website of Snow, Carpio, and Weekley.