The problems around a work injury go way beyond the accident itself. Waiting for recovery and expecting to overcome the injury is already too much. The bad news is that this is not the only issue you will meet on your journey.
Something else will also affect you during your process and keep your head pretty occupied: financial issues. Hence, there is an ongoing question you will have for sure in your mind.
How much money can I get on a Workers' Comp trial?
In this article, you will find how Workers' Comp trials can be in real life and, most importantly, how much you can obtain if your case goes to court.
1. How are Workers’ Comp trials in reality?
In Workers' Compensation, trials are different than what you typically see on TV. They are not like civil or criminal court trials. So, you will not find a lawyer getting up before a jury and giving a big speech. That is definitely not how it works here.
Instead, they are administrative trials presided over by administrative law judges rather than juries. In simpler words, the judge makes the decisions based on the evidence that medical experts provide, and there is no jury in such cases to help come up with a verdict.
2. How are damages awarded in Workers’ Comp trials?
In Workers' Comp, the damages awarded are set by statute. To put it simply, the judge cannot award amounts of money for things like pain and suffering, punitive damages, and general and special damages based on economic losses, among others.
Instead, the judge can award varying levels of Permanent Disability and the injured worker's right to future medical care. The judge can also grant things like Temporary Disability, but their powers are codified. It means they can’t go beyond what they’re entitled by law to award you.
That being said, in Workers’ Compensation there are some specific rules or guidelines that determine the amount of money awarded. The judge will not make up a random number but award X amount of time according to X percentage of Permanent or Temporary Disability.
3. How are decisions made in Workers’ Comp trials?
It is also important to note that the trials in Workers' Comp are often on limited issues, such as whether the injury happened at work or if a case is not allowed by the statute of limitations.
It pays to know that, in these cases, medical experts play a huge role in the decision-making process. The judge will not typically set aside or challenge a medical doctor's opinion. But it can go otherwise if this opinion is not based on fact.
For example, a doctor might give you an unprecise opinion of your current medical condition. They can even say you don’t need surgery or a specific treatment when you are obviously hurt.
In such circumstances, a judge will go beyond that opinion and order another examination with a different medical expert. As these decisions are so delicate, the judge will not base the decision on the first doctor’s opinion.
4. How is money awarded on a Workers’ Comp trial?
When it comes to the monetary component of a Workers’ Comp trial, the damages are already set by statute. This means that when we talk about damages available, they are based on Permanent Disability in your case and the corresponding benefits.
In some cases, you and your attorney can walk into a trial knowing what the top-dollar best-case scenario will be. You can get this information from the medical reports and case evidence.
However, there are exceptions to this. In cases with penalties and sanctions, or severe and willful misconduct by the employer, additional monetary awards may be available.
Additionally, in cases where there has been discrimination or retaliation for filing a Workers' Compensation claim, there may be additional monetary awards through Labor Code Section 132A.
Workers' Comp trials are different from other kinds you are familiar with, so that is why it is crucial to know what to expect from them. When you are mentally prepared and one step ahead of the game, your case can develop in a smoother way.
The amount of money you can get depends on your injury and other external factors, such as penalties and sanctions. However, keep in mind that this system already has some guidelines in terms of these awards.
It is also important to consult these matters with an attorney. They can help you navigate the process and be with you all along the journey, so you can obtain what you are entitled to after your work injury.
Need help with a Workers’ Comp trial? Contact Pacific Workers’, The Lawyers for Injured Workers for a free, confidential case evaluation. Call us at 800-606-6999 or make an appointment here.