If you have been injured on the job, the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation system could provide you with benefits to pay for your medical treatment and some other costs. Depending on the circumstances, it might replace some of the wages you are losing during the time you are unable to return to work. This help can be vital to workers and their families in the aftermath of a workplace accident.
Unfortunately, the system doesn’t always work as it should. Sometimes employers or their insurers do not honor an employee’s claim, or they provide less in benefits than the worker deserves.
If this has happened to you, you are probably wondering what you can do next.
Hearings and appeals
Fortunately, the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission provides avenues for workers to challenge decisions about their benefits. The dispute resolution system has several levels.
- Informal hearings: The first stage of dispute resolution involves requesting an informal hearing. At the hearing, an administrative law judge hears the evidence and arguments from both sides and recommends a solution. If both sides agree to the recommended action, the judge issues an award that is binding on both sides. These hearings typically take only about 15 minutes. According to the CWCC, 95% of disputes are resolved through informal hearings.
- Formal hearings: If the parties can’t resolve their dispute through an informal hearing, either side may request a formal hearing. This part of the process begins with what is known as a pre-formal hearing, where the parties clarify the legal issues in the case and agree to a timetable. The formal hearing itself may last several hours, or may require multiple sessions. After hearing the evidence and arguments in a formal hearing, the administrative law judge renders a binding decision.
- Appeals: After the decision in the formal hearing, either party may request an appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Commission Review Board. Appeals are heard by a 3-person panel consisting of two administrative law judges and the chair of the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Normally, there is no new evidence presented in appeals. Instead, the appeal concentrates on questions of law.
You don’t have to go through it alone
An attorney can help injured workers at many points in the process, including while making the initial claims. Professional help is especially important if anything goes wrong in the process. It can greatly improve a worker’s chances if they have professional representation at hearings and appeals.