Michigan workers’ comp lawyer explains the facilitation hearing process and why it could be the most important step in your case.
Many of our clients want to settle their workers’ comp case and be done with the insurance company. They trade workers’ comp benefits for a lump sum cash payment. Settlement money can be used for any purpose including finding a new job or getting additional medical treatment. Our experience shows that workers’ comp cases typically get settled through a facilitation hearing.
What is a facilitation hearing?
A facilitation hearing is when both sides get to present their arguments to a neutral magistrate. This is an informal process and neither party must testify under oath. Medical and vocational evidence can also be presented without strictly following the rules of evidence.
The neutral magistrate will attempt to come up with a dollar amount to settle the workers’ comp case. Neither party must accept this amount, but it helps bring each side closer together. These hearings allow legal issues to be narrowed and to see what medical evidence is compelling. Most of the time the number chosen by the magistrate for settlement purposes is reasonable.
These hearings are a great way to test proofs without the risk of a formal trial.
Why should I attend?
It is not an exaggeration to say nine out of ten workers’ comp cases get settled at the facilitation hearing. Sitting in a room with the other side and freely talking about legal or medical issues can be extremely helpful. Our clients also get a sense of relief from telling their story. We recommend proceeding with this hearing before ever considering trial. Many of our workers’ comp cases settle at these hearing for more money than could possibly be obtained if the client proceeded with trial.
Some employees have unrealistic expectations regarding settlement value, and it is necessary to get an opinion from a neutral party. Insurance companies and employers are also expected to acknowledge the merits of a claim. It is common for workers’ comp cases with little hope of settlement to be resolved through a this hearing. Sometimes it takes two or three hearings to get a workers’ comp case resolved
How do I get the largest settlement at the facilitation hearing?
Getting the largest settlement requires preparation. The settlement amount is going to depend upon several important factors including future medical needs and lost wages. We recommend preparing for this hearing like the case is going to trial.
The magistrate will want to see medical records that support the workers’ comp case. Deposition testimony from a doctor or vocational counselor is helpful but not always required. Unpaid medical bills and potential liens should be disclosed so they can be factored into the amount.
Information regarding the average weekly wage is needed. This is an average of the highest 39 paid weeks in the 52 before weeks injury. Tax filing status and number of dependents is also required to calculate the weekly comp rate.
Future wage loss benefits will be determined based upon how many years it is anticipated an employee will be disabled from working. Job search logs are very helpful to show that a person is making a good faith effort to find alternate employment.
We ask our clients to be present and available to speak to the magistrate if necessary. Putting a face to a workers’ comp case sometimes helps to get a fair number. It is also important to be present so any last minute factual questions can be answered.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 316-8033 for a free consultation today.