How to get a hearing if you don't have a lawyer or other representative
You can request a hearing by telephone or in writing. You can call the district office responsible for your claim and ask for a hearing. The commission has a hearing request form that you can download from its website. Click here to see the hearing request form. You cannot at this time file a hearing request electronically. If a notice of claim has not yet been filed, you will have to provide the name, address and date of birth of the claimant, the date of injury, and the name and address of the employer. You will also have to identify the issue(s) for the hearing.
Preparation for the hearing if you are a claimant
You will receive a hearing notice that tells you where and when to report for your hearing, and the issues that will be considered. Click here to see a sample hearing notice.
You should review the hearing notice to make sure that the injury date and injured body part(s) identified are correct, that all known employers and insurers have been notified at their proper addresses of the hearing, and that all issues for the hearing are listed. If the notice is incorrect, call the district office and ask to have it revised and reissued.
Preparation for unrepresented claimants:
Use your best efforts to obtain all documentary evidence to support your claims prior to the hearing.
- If the issue is payment of total disability benefits, get a note from your doctor saying that you presently have no work capacity at all. A note saying that you can't do your job is not enough to establish total disability.
- If the issue is unpaid medical bills, get copies of all bills, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, health insurance benefit explanation forms, and the medical provider's reports corresponding to each bill.
- If the claim is contested on medical grounds, obtain a report from your doctor that states that your work was a substantial contributing factor to your medical condition or disability.
- If the employer is contesting whether an accidental injury occurred, bring a list of all witnesses, with their addresses and telephone numbers, and any written statements they are willing to give. Bring a copy of the First Report of Injury form if you have one. Bring a copy of any medical record that supports your claim that the injury occurred at work.
- If the employer has filed a Form 36 to terminate temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits, obtain a note from your doctor describing your work status and/or whether you are still recovering or have reached maximum medical improvement.
- If the issue is authorization for medical treatment or prescription medications, obtain a note from your doctor stating what the prescribed treatment is and confirming that it is for the work injury.
- If you have had prior injuries to the same body part, make a list of the medical providers who treated you for those prior injuries for the commissioner and the other parties, and use your best efforts to obtain those records.
- If there has been a respondents' medical examination, try to obtain a copy of the report prior to the hearing and ask your doctor to comment on it in writing.
- If there is a claim for unpaid indemnity benefits, write down the exact days lost from work, and make sure that the days out of work are supported by notes from your doctor.
- If you have a work capacity limited by the injury, and are seeking temporary partial disability benefits, make sure that you have completed work searches, preferably on the form normally used by the commission, or pay stubs showing a loss of earnings due to your injury. Click here for a copy of the work search form.
- Make at least two copies of all your documents for the hearing, one set for the commissioner, and one for the respondents, and keep the originals for yourself. If there is more than one insurance carrier represented at the hearing, make a set for each.
- Make a succinct list of all issues for the hearing, so that you don't forget an issue.
- If the hearing notice identifies a law firm for the respondent(s), call the firm to find out who is doing the hearing and then, if there is time, send the documents you compiled for the hearing to the lawyer. If there is no law firm listed, send the documents to the adjustor who has been handling the file.
- Call the law firm or the adjustor prior to the hearing to try to narrow the issues and to find out whether any can be resolved before the hearing.
What to do at the hearing if you don't have a lawyer or other representative
You will be identified by commission staff as a "pro se" party, and will be allowed extra hearing time.
You should dress neatly and respectfully. Work clothes are fine. Caps or hats should be removed in the commissioner's presence.
Be on time. Allowing adequate time for parking, and bring enough quarters, unwrinkled one-dollar bills, or a credit card to pay for parking, which can be expensive.
Sign the docket sheet at the reception desk and take a seat in the waiting room until your case is called.
Make sure that your copies are organized so that you can find what you need quickly.
Take charge - be the first to speak and frame the issues in your words, following the notes you've made prior to the hearing. If you are a claimant, try not to let the respondents' attorney or claim representative frame the issues for the commissioner.
Be brief and clear; your time will be limited.
If you have doubts about agreeing to something proposed by the other side or by the commissioner at a hearing, say that you will get back to both after the hearing. Then either research the issue or obtain advice from a competent source.
Keep detailed notes about what happened at the hearing.
Ask the commissioner to write in his or her notes what issues remain outstanding at the end of the hearing, and what issues have been resolved.
If a Form 36 is the subject of a hearing, and there has not been time to obtain the necessary report from your treating physician, ask for the Form 36 to be held in abeyance and for the hearing to be re-assigned for a specified number of weeks later to give you time to obtain a report.
If a commissioner rules against you at an informal or pre-formal hearing on a Form 36 or a medical treatment issue, ask right then to have the matter set down for a formal hearing, and confirm the request in writing. You should consult a lawyer at this point, if you haven't already.
If the attorney for the other side agrees to do something, such as authorize a visit to a specialist, ask if he or she has authority to agree, or if this is simply a recommendation to the adjustor, which may or may not be followed. If it is only a recommendation, then ask the commissioner to assign another hearing for about three weeks later.
At the end of the hearing, ask for business cards from all of the representatives present, so that you can follow up with them by telephone or in writing.
At the conclusion of the hearing, ask the commissioner to schedule another hearing to make sure that what the parties have agreed to do will actually get done.
What a commissioner can't do at an informal or pre-formal hearing:
The commissioner can't force an employer to give an injured employee back his or her job.
The commission can't order continuation of health or other fringe benefits for employees in the private sector.
The commissioner can't force any party to do anything it doesn't agree to do, except, under certain circumstances, order medical treatment, or terminate a claimant's benefits based on a Form 36.
All decisions by a commissioner at an informal or pre-formal hearing can be appealed by asking for a formal hearing.
Preparation for unrepresented employers and alleged employers:
Employers in Connecticut must be insured or self-insured for workers' compensation, and will have a representative provided by their insurer or self-insurance administrator. If you are named as an employer on the hearing notice and don't have workers' compensation insurance coverage, it is best to obtain a lawyer immediately, as the penalties for failing to carry insurance if you are found to be liable as the employer are significant.
© Copyright by Donna Civitello. All Rights Reserved.