I’ve added a new link – but it comes with a warning. The link will take you to a subject index of Significant Decisions from the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeal.
I should back up. If the Department of Labor & Industries issues a Decision and Order and you or your employer disagrees, a protest or appeal must be filed within 60 days of receipt of the Order. This magic 60 day language is on the bottom of each and every Department Order. A protest or appeal must be in writing, a phone call will not be enough to stop the 60 day appeal period from running.
If you disagree with a Department Order, it is a really good time to talk to an attorney. There are many disputes which can be ironed out without the time, expense and frustration of litigation. An attorney familiar with workers compensation may be able to help.
A written protest is sent to the Department, the address is on the Decision and Order. A protest is a way of asking the Department to take another look at their decision. Sometimes we call it a Request for Reconsideration. Perhaps there is additional information which was not available when the claims manager issued the order. An additional medical report from your physician, or additional wage information may change the department’s decision if they have an opportunity to review it. Maybe the claims manager missed something already in the file, or took action which is not supported by the Departments records. If a protest is filed the Department must issue a new order. They might issue a new order in as quick as a couple of days, or it may take weeks. The new Decision and Order will also have the magic 60 day appeal period language on it. Either you or the employer can file a further appeal of the order.
An appeal is sent to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals which is the administrative agency which conducts hearings on workers compensation claims. Again, the address is on the Department’s Decision and Order. The Board has Industrial Appeals Judges who conduct mediations, hold hearings and issue what we call Proposed Decision and Orders. These decisions will be reviewed by the full Board if a Petition for Review is filed. A decision of the full Board can be appealed to Superior Court.
The new link I’ve added to the blogroll will allow you to read decisions from the Board which have been designated as ‘significant’. Usually significant decisions are on issues which are, or have been, hot button topics. The Board follows the reasoning in these significant decisions when ruling on cases being heard. They will give you some understanding of the law which will be applied in your case by the Board. The Board does not have the final say on how to apply or interpret the law in workers compensation claims. This lies with our Courts. But these significant decisions give guidance as to how the Board may view a particular situation.
So, here’s the warning. If your workers compensation claim is at the Board, it is time to talk to an attorney. Just because you have access to and can easily read these significant decisions does not mean you shouldn’t consult with an attorney. This is your one chance to make a record. Board hearings are like trials. The Rules of Evidence and Superior Court Civil Rules apply. You must be familiar with these rules in order to ensure that all your testimony and evidence will be admitted at your hearing. If there is an appeal from a decision of the Board it will be decided based on the evidence and testimony present at the hearing. The Department and/or your employer will be represented by an attorney, you should be as well.
So, peruse the significant decisions, they are sometimes interesting reading. But if your claim has been appealed and is at the Board, don’t rely on a reading of these significant decisions to chart your course. Talk to an attorney.