This post explains the appeals process in a workers’ compensation hearing. Read it over to find out what will happen if your Maryland workers’ compensation claim is appealed, what the process is, and how to resolve the case.
In Maryland, your workers’ compensation claim is initially decided by Commissioner, who is really an Administrative Law Judge. This person is appointed by the Governor and hears certain claims held outside of the usual court system. The Commissioner always gets first crack at any decision, and for the majority of claims, they get the final say.
However, any party to the claim can file an appeal of the Commissioner’s decision. The appeal is filed in civil court. An appeal effectively removes the case from the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and puts it in the hands of the Circuit Court of the county in which you (the injured worker) reside. You have the right to request a jury trial, and most people do just that when they appeal. Therefore an appeal of a workers’ compensation Order is really asking for a jury trial on the matter which was the subject of the hearing.
You must file your appeal in the Courthouse within 30 days of the date of the Order. Please note this is not the date of the hearing, or the date you received the Order. It is the actual date of the Order, which is set forth in every Workers’ Compensation Commission Order. Usually it says “It is, this __ day of ______, hereby Ordered that . . . “
An appeal is then treated like any other request for a jury trial. The Court will set a trial date, and issue a Scheduling Order forcing the attorneys to comply with certain deadlines. There will be discovery, and you will likely sit for a deposition. We can have expert witnesses. You can bring in other fact witnesses that were not present at the hearing. At the end of the process, you will ask a jury of your peers to decide your fate.
You can also settle your case at any time. And I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that often the other side uses an appeal as a weapon to try and get you to settle. It happens. Nobody can ever force you to settle. You can always get your day in court. But they will dangle it in front of you several times. Expect it.
An appeal can be good or bad. Some of the matters in workers’ compensation are common sense factual matters that a jury can handle easily. Some issues are not that way. Maryland workers’ compensation is anything but easy and simple. Some of these issues make your head spin. I am not sure all issues are quite proper for a jury to decide. But this is our system, for better or worse.
There is no way to go over the details of every appealable issue that could impact your case. If we have not already talked about your appeal, please call me and we can discuss the details.
So if your case is appealed, or if I am advising you to appeal it, you will be in for a long hard slog while we work our way towards an eventual jury trial. We will do the “heavy lifting” for you, but there is no way to avoid it will be work and a big pain in the neck.
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Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.