This information is provided as a courtesy; it does not represent legal advice. If you are unsure about how to apply this information, you should use your own judgment or that of your attorney.
What will happen at the hearing? Your hearing will be very similar to a trial in court, with witnesses and exhibits presented by all parties. You should arrive at the place where your hearing will be held before your scheduled hearing so that you and any witnesses may be seated in the hearing room. More than one case may be set for the same time. If so, the judge will call all of the parties into the room and determine which case will go first.
When your hearing begins, the judge may ask each side what the issues are and what each side intends to prove. Each side then can introduce relevant evidence to prove its case. Evidence can include testimony taken under oath or documents such as medical reports or employer records. In some cases, depositions may be taken of doctors or other witnesses. A deposition is a sworn statement taken before a court reporter outside of court, with all parties having received notice of the deposition and having an opportunity to be present. The depositions are filed with the judge who reads them instead of having the witnesses testify at the hearing.
Each side is then allowed to call witnesses, who will take an oath to tell the truth. You may call witnesses and you may testify yourself. If you call witnesses, you may ask them questions about the facts of your case (direct examination). After you are finished asking questions, the lawyer for the other side will ask questions (cross-examination). You may then ask more questions about matters brought up by the other side (redirect).
Either side may object to documents, and the documents will not be considered unless they comply with the Workers' Compensation Act, or the Colorado Rules of Evidence. The judge will decide whether to allow documents into evidence.
If you testify, the judge may ask some questions. You also can make a statement. Then the other side will ask you questions (cross-examination). You then will have a chance to make another statement to respond to the questions asked by the other party.
After each side has presented its case, rebuttal witnesses may be called. Rebuttal witnesses may only testify to issues already brought up by the other side. Few hearings actually involve rebuttal witnesses.
After all testimony has been heard and the documents received, the judge may allow each side to make a closing argument. Closing arguments can only address facts brought out in testimony of the witnesses or in exhibits received into evidence. Closing argument is not a chance to testify and you may not mention things that were not received in evidence. Sometimes the judge may allow the parties to make a closing argument in writing after the hearing.
Which side goes first in presenting the evidence? In workers' compensation cases the issues vary from case to case. In most cases, the employee must introduce evidence to show that he or she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Generally, you must show that you were hurt as a result of performing the duties of your employment, and that, under the law, you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits from the insurance company or your employer. You must present your evidence first at the hearing, and the insurance company and the employer will then present their evidence.
If the insurance company or the employer is already paying benefits to you and they wish to stop or reduce the benefits, the employer or the insurance company will set the case for hearing. If that happens, the employer or the insurance company must show proper grounds for stopping or reducing your benefits and they must present their evidence first. You will then have the opportunity to present evidence to show that your benefits should not be reduced.
Do I need to dress up for the hearing? You may appear in casual clothing, but remember that you are trying to make an impression on people and you should appear as you would when meeting with other professionals.
Who will be at the hearing? Usually both parties are represented by attorneys. The attorneys, representatives of the employer and the insurer, and witnesses will be at the hearing. Hearings are open to the public, although the judge may close the hearing, upon request, to protect the claimant's confidential medical information. he judge will audio record the hearing. On rare occasions, one of the parties may hire a court reporter who will take down everything that is said at the hearing. The audio recording, or the record taken by the court reporter, may be necessary if anyone wants to appeal the judge's decision.
Is it OK to bring letters instead of witnesses? A written statement by a witness who is not present at the hearing is usually not allowed. Medical reports and employer records provided to the other side at least 20 days before the hearing may be considered by the judge if they are presented to the judge at the hearing. This hearing is your chance to tell the judge why you should receive workers' compensation benefits. It is important to have your witnesses present at the hearing to testify and to provide the judge with the medical records and employer records that support your claim.
What if I need an interpreter? If you or a witness needs a language interpreter, you should arrange to bring your own certified interpreter. Normally, it is not okay to bring a friend or relative to interpret for you. You may contact the lawyer for the other side to see if you can arrange for an interpreter or share an interpreter. OAC requires all language interpreters to read and agree to abide by an Interpreter's Code of Conduct .
If you need a sign-language interpreter, contact the appropriate OAC Clerk's Office as soon as possible.
Will the hearing location be accessible to people with disabilities? Hearing locations are accessible to persons with disabilities; however, check in advance with the appropriate OAC office to ensure accessibility. In addition, if you know that persons who plan to attend have special needs that require reasonable accommodation, contact the appropriate OAC Clerk's Office as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made.
What if I can't be there on the day set for the hearing? If you cannot attend the hearing on the date and time shown, you must contact the other side and OAC as soon as you know of the problem. Contact the other side to see if they will agree to change the hearing date. If they agree, you can call OAC and request a new hearing date. If the other side does not agree, immediately file a motion with the appropriate OAC office to request an extension of time to commence the hearing. Except for a one-time agreement between the parties, you must show good cause to change a hearing date. The sooner you make your request, the more likely it will be granted.
What happens if I don't go to the hearing? If you request a hearing in a workers' compensation case and do not attend the hearing, an order will be issued requiring you to explain why you were not present. If you do not show good cause for your absence, your case may be dismissed. If the other side requested the hearing and you do not appear, the hearing will probably proceed without you or your evidence and the judge will issue a decision on the case.
How long will my hearing take? Hearing length varies depending on the issues and number of witnesses. Short hearings may take about 30 minutes while the longest hearings may take several days. Most hearings take about one and one-half to two hours.
How long will the judge take to make a decision after my hearing? The judge may issue a ruling from the bench or the judge may choose to take more time to review the evidence before issuing a ruling. If the judge does not issue a ruling from the bench, the judge is required to issue a decision within 15 working days. Sometimes the parties have to file written position statements or additional evidence after the hearing. In those cases, the 15 working day period does not start running until the additional documents are received by the judge.