What Can I Expect If My Claim Goes To A Hearing Or Trial?
What happens when my claim goes to trial or a hearing?
During the Pretrial Hearing
If there is a dispute about whether or not you’re entitled to benefits under the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Act, your lawyer may file what’s called an original petition, which essentially determines whether or not you should be on workers’ compensation at all. Once filed, that petition will trigger a “pretrial hearing,” which is a court date that you and your lawyer attend.
During that hearing, a judge will informally listen to arguments from both sides, review evidence available at the time, and make a preliminary determination without the benefit of a full hearing. In some cases, a judge might determine at the pretrial heraing that additional evidence or a full trial is necessary.
Why Pretrial is Important
In reality, the pretrial conference on your original petition is the most important day in the life of your workers’ compensation case in Rhode Island. The reason for that is if your original petition is granted at this first pretrial hearing court date, then you’ll immediately begin to receive everything you’re entitled to under the workers’ compensation act. For all intents and purposes, you would be in the driver’s seat in terms of your legal case.
If your case is denied at the pretrial level, then you will have to take a “claim for trial” (an appeal) and you would not receive benefits during that process. You will then be proceeding through a long and winding road known as claiming a trial, which can be very difficult, and take a very long time, all during which you’re not receiving income replacement.
Why Petitions Aren't Granted
There are many reasons why a petition may not be granted at the pretrial level. While lawyers try to avoid proceeding further than the pre-trial hearing, doing so can be necessary. There are also some cases in which the lawyer and the employee realistically know that the case has serious legal problems. In those cases, the lawyer should make his or her client very aware of the fact that a denial at the pretrial level is likely.
They should already be prepared for how they’re going to attack the case after that point, whether it’s to target some sort of settlement through a denial and dismissal, or to proceed through a full trial. If doing the latter, a strategy has to be determined and the cost to the employee of prosecuting the case in the absence of receiving any benefits must be considered.