What happens at an Oregon Workers's Compensation hearing?

Oregon Workers' Compensation hearings are somewhat like a court trial. However, the rules of evidence are a bit more liberal, and the proceedings are a bit less formal. Here is a general rundown of what to expect if you are appearing at an Oregon Workers' Compensation hearing.

An Oregon Workers' Compensation hearing begins with the filing of a request for hearing. Usually, the injured worker files the request for hearing. An attorney representing the employer will file a response to the request for hearing. These two documents tell the Hearings Division what the issues are in the case.

About a month prior to the hearing, the attorney representing the employer will submit an exhibit packet. This exhibit packet contains documents from the claims file arranged in chronological order. The typical exhibits include a mix of medical records and claims documents.  Within a required period of time, the attorney representing the injured worker files supplemental exhibits. These documents come from the claims file, or from medical providers.

Sometimes, there may be a disagreement or dispute between the parties before the hearing. There also may be in need to meet with the Judge for housekeeping matters, like scheduling of hearings. The Administrative Law Judge will schedule a telephone conference to resolve these issues before the hearing.  Some judges schedule a pre-hearing conference just to make sure everyone is ready to go to hearing.

At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge goes over the issues and exhibits with each attorney prior to "going on the record." "Going on the record" is when the recording of the hearing begins. Anything recorded is part of the official record of the case, in addition to the exhibits.  Once all the issues are sorted out, the Judge goes on the record.

After the Administrative Law Judge recites the issues, and admits the exhibits, each party is given the opportunity to give an opening statement. The opening statement is designed to advise the Administrative Law Judge about the evidence in the case.

After the opening statements, the party who has the burden of proving their case goes first to present their case, and can call witnesses. Witnesses are not required all the time.  The opposing attorney can question these witnesses, which is known as "cross examination."  After the party with the burden of proving their case is finished calling witnesses, they will "rest their case."  Then, the other side has the option of putting on their case, and calling their own witnesses.

In Oregon Workers' compensation cases, it is common for a party to present a medical report as an exhibit days before the hearing, sometimes even the day of hearing. When this happens, the opposing party has the right to request the cross examination of the author of that report. If a party exercises the right to cross-examine the author of a report, the judge will allow the remaining witnesses to testify. After the witnesses testify, the judge will continue the hearing to allow the deposition.

A deposition is where someone gives sworn testimony outside of a hearing or trial after being placed under oath. A certified court reporter records the testimony.  Depositions usually take place at the physician's office with both attorneys and a court reporter. Each attorney asks questions of the witness. After the deposition is completed, a court reporter converts the deposition into a written transcript. A copy of that transcript as provided to the Administrative Law Judge, and is made an exhibit to the case.

After the deposition is admitted into evidence, the record is usually closed, and the closing arguments are scheduled. Some Judges like to have closing arguments over the telephone. Other judges prefer that the closing arguments be made in writing. Within approximately thirty days of the closing argument, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a decision, which is called an Opinion and Order.

If you are facing a hearing on a denied claim, and you have questions, call us at 503 325 8600.  We have handled many hearings, and can answer your quesitons.  If we are able to help, there is no fee unless we win the hearing, and the insurance company pays our fee, not you.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Top-rated Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Oregon and Washington Families