FAQs -- Litigation process
If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney is the best person to answer your questions. Free assistance and information are also available from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) at 651-284-5032 or 800-342-5354. DLI specialists cannot provide legal advice, but can answer questions concerning Minnesota workers' compensation laws and the litigation process.
Frequently asked questions
1. What happens after an Employee's Claim Petition form is filed?
Filing a claim petition begins a formal litigation process. Not every case proceeds in exactly the same way. The litigation process may include the following steps:
the employer/insurer files an answer to the Employee's Claim Petition form;
an examination by a doctor of the employer's/insurer's choice, referred to as an independent medical examination (IME);
assignment of the file to a workers' compensation judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH);
a settlement conference;
a pretrial conference; and
if the case does not settle, a hearing before the workers' compensation judge.
2. What is discovery?
Discovery is a process where the parties compile and exchange information. Discovery may include the gathering of medical records and bills, witness statements, wage information, etc. One of the most common methods of discovery in workers' compensation cases is to take the deposition of the employee, any witnesses, the employer and the medical providers.
3. What is a deposition?
In a deposition, out-of-court testimony under oath is taken. It is similar to testimony at a hearing, except there is no judge present. Depositions give the parties information in advance about the facts of the case and what a witness will say at a hearing. The employer and insurer have the right to depose an employee. In addition, anyone who has information related to your case can be deposed.
4. Can the insurer require the employee to be seen by a doctor of their choice?
Yes, the employee can be required to be examined by a doctor chosen and paid by the employer and insurer. The insurer's doctor cannot provide medical treatment. The insurer's doctor will provide the employer and insurer with a report answering certain questions asked by the employer and insurer concerning your injury and claims.
5. What is an intervenor?
An intervenor is a health care provider, insurance company, government agency or anyone else that has something to gain or lose in a hearing. Typically, an intervenor is seeking to be paid for a benefit it has provided for the employee, such as medical or chiropractic care, or paid on the employee's behalf.
The employee should provide their attorney with the details of all medical providers they have treated with for the work injury and any other health insurance the employee is covered by. Additionally, the employee should provide their attorney with any information about wage-loss or income-replacement benefits received from any source (such as unemployment, short-term disability or long-term disability benefits).
The lack of proper notification to any potential intervenors can delay a claim. This is true whether the claim is decided in a hearing before a judge or is resolved through a settlement agreement.
6. What is a workers' compensation settlement?
When people use the term "settlement," it refers to a written agreement reached by the parties. It is usually prepared by the attorneys and signed by the employee, insurer, intervenors and attorneys. The agreement often requires an employee to give up the right to past and future benefits. In return, the employee receives a specific sum of money from the employer/insurer. A settlement may result from a mediation, a settlement conference or through informal discussions between the parties.
A mediation may occur at any point during the process of a workers' compensation claim. The parties agree to a specific mediator. The mediation may take place with one of DLI's professional mediators, with a private mediator or with a mediator from the Office of Administrative Hearings. See more information about DLI mediation services.
7. What is a hearing and what can I expect?
A hearing is a formal trial before a workers' compensation judge, who will decide the employee's claims It is similar to a District Court trial, but is not as formal. There are no juries in workers' compensation trials. Hearings are recorded so a record can be transcribed in the event of an appeal.
The employee will likely testify at a hearing via the employee's attorney asking questions to help explain to the judge how the injury occurred and all of the basic facts involved in the case. The attorney for the employer/insurer will also get to ask the employee questions during a cross examination. Other witnesses may also be called. The attorneys will introduce various exhibits into evidence.
Hearings in workers' compensation cases can usually be completed in half a day, but sometimes take longer. The judge should issue a decision within 60 days of your hearing. You may appeal a judge's decision if you disagree with it. The appeal will be heard at the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals.
8. Should I settle my case or go to hearing?
The decision about whether to settle or proceed to a hearing is an important one. If represented, the parties will discuss this thoroughly with their attorney. It is important to understand the terms of the settlement prior to agreement. For example, if the employee agrees to a full, final and complete settlement with only medical benefits open, the only type of benefit the employee can claim after the settlement are those medical benefits.