OAC offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction conduct hearings in Colorado workers' compensation cases. OAC and the Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation ("DOWC") are separate divisions of state government. OAC conducts administrative hearings for a number of state agencies, including the DOWC. OAC offices have administrative law judges and staff members who are responsible for handling the workers' compensation hearings from the time of application for hearing until final disposition of the hearing. Over the course of a year, OAC receives many thousands of applications for hearings on workers' compensation claims. Each administrative law judge will usually conduct between 100 and 200 hearings per year. OAC Rules of Procedure for workers' compensation hearings apply from the time an application for hearing is filed with OAC until final disposition of the matter.
Colorado's Workers' Compensation law provides various benefits to injured employees, including medical benefits, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, and disfigurement benefits. Employers must either be qualified to be self-insured or the employers must have workers' compensation insurance from an insurance company. When disputes arise between the injured employee and the employer or insurer about the workers' compensation benefits, a party may apply for a hearing with OAC. The hearings involve the injured employee (the "claimant") on one side and the employer and insurance company (the "respondents") on the other side. In many workers' compensation claims, the parties are able to arrive at a full or partial settlement of the claim.
The administrative law judges in the three offices are experienced Colorado attorneys who have state-wide jurisdiction over Colorado workers' compensation hearings. The judges assigned to workers' compensation cases are required to conduct hearings in various locations throughout the state. Once assigned, the administrative law judge conducts the hearing, reviews the testimony and documentary evidence, and prepares a written order that decides the issues in that hearing. A single hearing may take as little as 30 minutes or may take several days to complete. The administrative law judge is required to issue a written order within 15 working days after the conclusion of the hearing. A single workers' compensation claim may result in multiple hearings and orders on different issues.
The staff members are the liaison between the parties or general public and the administrative law judges. The staff members are responsible for setting hearings, creating files, processing any motions or other pleadings, distributing the orders to the parties, and processing any appeals from the judges' orders. Staff members assist parties and members of the general public with information about their hearings without providing legal advice. Most workers' compensation hearings have attorneys on both sides, although a party is not required to have an attorney. Self-Represented parties in administrative hearings are required to know the law and to be prepared for the hearings.
OAC has standard forms for the parties to use to apply for hearing, respond to the application for hearing, confirm selected hearing dates, cancel hearings, file Case Information Sheets, request full orders, petition to review, and request transcripts or audio recordings. OAC also has a language interpreter's code of conduct form that is required for all hearings.