by Casaundra Johnson | Feb 08, 2017 | Hearing Process
The Ohio Workers’ Compensation system is handled by two separate entities—the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) and the Industrial Commission (IC). The BWC handles the filing and processing of claims as well as the premium payments made by employers. The IC adjudicates and resolves disputes between parties to a claim. These disputes may involve the allowance or disallowance of a claim, diagnostic testing, treatment requests, and payment or non-payment of compensation to an employee. The IC has a hearing process to handle these disputes.
The Industrial Commission of Ohio holds hearings at their twelve offices across the state. At these hearings, injured workers and employers are each given the opportunity to present arguments and evidence before a hearing officer. The hearing officers are neutral third parties who hear the arguments of each party and then issue an order ruling on the issue. The hearing process has three levels.
Therefore, an injured worker has the possibility of having three hearings on any given issue in dispute. Usually, the hearing process begins before a District Hearing Officer (DHO). After each party has presented their evidence and arguments, the DHO will issue an order within a few days which is then mailed to the parties and their representatives.
Each party has the right to appeal the DHO’s order and request a further hearing. The second level hearing is held before a Staff Hearing Officer (SHO). Like the District Hearing Officer, the Staff Hearing Officer will listen to arguments from the parties and issue a similar order within a few days.
As with the DHO order, an SHO order appeal may be filed by either party. However, an appeal from an SHO order does not automatically result in a third and final hearing. The appeal of an SHO hearing is a discretionary appeal, therefore, the Commission may decide to hear the issue a third time or simply refuse to hear it again. In most situations, the SHO appeal is refused and therefore, the SHO order will be final.
Throughout each level of the hearing process, most hearings will only take approximately ten to fifteen minutes. The hearing officers will always have access to the BWC claim file. The hearing officer will be able to access the database of medical documents and other evidence related to the claim.
At these hearings, the party requesting the hearing is given the opportunity to present their argument first. Once that party presents their argument, the opposition is then given the chance to present their case in opposition. Then, the requesting party is given the opportunity to provide a rebuttal argument.
Each hearing officer has a different “style” of conducting hearings. Some hearing officers will ask you questions regarding your injuries, and others will not—it just depends on which officer you are randomly assigned based on your geographical location. At these hearings, injured workers are allowed to bring in witnesses to provide testimony related to the issue in dispute. Further, injured workers may be able to compel a witness to testify in accordance with the IC’s subpoena power under ORC 4123.98.
Finally, here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for a hearing. If you are attending your hearing in person, be sure to dress appropriately. It is not necessary to wear a suit, but you should be sure to look your best! If you provide testimony, be sure to always tell the truth. If you are caught being untruthful, your hearing may end up going terribly. Make sure to keep your answers short and concise.
If you have a workers’ compensation hearing coming up and you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact the Bainbridge Firm to assist you! Our talented team of workers’ compensation attorneys can help you obtain all of the compensation you deserve.
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