Saturday, April 19, 2014

Win Your Virginia Workers' Compensation Case Before the Hearing Commissioner!

In Virginia an injured worker has his/her case heard by an official called a deputy Commissioner.This official is the hearing commissioner who hears the evidence in a courtroom like setting and issues a judgment called an "opinion" in the worker's case.

This opinion decides if the worker has a compensable accident and what benefits if any the worker is entitled to under the Act. In effect, the deputy commissioner acts like a judge and jury in the worker's case.

The worker can file an appeal from the deputy commissioner's opinion. The worker or the insurer has 30 days from the date of the opinion to file such an appeal which in Virginia is called a Request for Review.

The case then goes before three commissioners who review the opinion of the deputy commissioner. This is usually done on written arguments. Occasionally, the three commissioners will hear oral arguments.

Recently, I checked to see in 2014 how many deputy commissioner opinions had been reversed or overturned. I was struck by the fact over 90% of the deputy commissioner opinions had been affirmed. One reason is because the three appellate commissioners defer to the deputy commissioners on matters involving credibility of witnesses.

In conclusion, I took from this survey that Virginia workers' compensation cases are won or lost in front of the deputy commissioners. Do not expect to overturn a deputy commissioner opinion on an appeal. The statistics and the law are totally against appellants.