The Oregon Workers' Compensation Board appeals system is an administrative system. In other words, any disputes regarding a denied on the job injury claim are heard by Administrative Law Judges, who conduct hearings, not trials.
Generally, administrative hearings and trials are the same. Each side puts on its case, and a decision maker weighs the evidence, applies that evidence to the rules, and makes a decision. However, the presentation of expert opinions in Workers' Compensation claims is different that in a state court.
Prior to a hearing in front of an Oregon Workers' Compensation Judge, each party submits an exhibit packet, which contains claims documents and medical records. In many cases, the most important documents in the exhibit file medical opinions offered by treating doctors, or insurance reatined doctors. These opinions are written reports. If the medical opinion is needed to decide the case, the Administrative Law Judge is asked to weigh the conflicting opinions, and decide which opinion should control the case's outcome.
Many times, an opposing attorney will choose to "cross-examine" a physician on a written medical opinion. When this occurs, the cross examination occurs at a deposition. A deposition is simply a process where a party is placed under oath and questioned in front of a court reporter, but outside of the hearing room or courtroom.
In Workers' Compensation cases, a physician's deposition occurs at his or her office. Both attorneys meet with the doctor, and each has an opportunity to question the physician under oath. After the deposition is completed, the court reporter transcribes the testimony, and prepares a transcript. That transcript, which looks like a booklet, is then admitted as an exhibit for the judge to review.
Many times, the deposition involves educating the physician about the mechanics of the injury at the work place, prior injuries, and even the connection between the legal standards required to prove a claim, and the doctor's medical opinion based on science.
In order for a physician to testify intelligently about a case, he or she should have a good working knowledge of the prior medical treatment, the objective findings on examination, and the findings on radiological studies like x-rays and MRIs. In many cases, we provide the doctor with a copy of the imaging studies for his or her review.
If you have questions about expert opinions in Oregon Workers' Compensation claims, give us a call at 503-325-8600. We deal with these issues every day.