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What to expect at your first workers’ compensation hearing


If you are wondering what will happen at your first workers’ compensation hearing, you are not alone. Understanding the workers’ compensation hearing process is an important part of knowing what to expect at your hearing. One of the first steps is understanding why a hearing was scheduled in the first place. 

Hearings are scheduled when the parties to a claim (i.e., the injured, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, or employer) do not agree about a specific issue.  The dispute can be about a larger issue, such as whether your claim should be allowed at all or a smaller issue such as whether a specific condition should be added to your claim.  While disputes can arise over a variety of issues, temporary total disability compensation, treatment requests, payment of medical bills, and permanent partial disability compensation are among some of the most common contested issues.  

When a disagreement arises, the claim is sent to the Ohio Industrial Commission, which is the state agency in charge of resolving disputes in workers’ compensation claims.  The Industrial Commission then schedules a hearing and mails a hearing notice to all the parties in the claim, identifying the issues being disputed as well as the date, time, and duration of the hearing.  The Industrial Commission employee who conducts the hearing and decides the case is called a hearing officer.  In most situations, the first hearing regarding a contested issue is held before a District Hearing Officer. If there is a second hearing on the same issue, it is held by a Staff Hearing Officer. 

In the past, hearings were held in person at the Industrial Commission office closest to the injured worker’s residence, and the location of the hearing was included in the hearing notice.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Industrial Commission now conducts hearings by telephone, and the parties must use the telephone number and meeting ID provided in the hearing notice to join the conference call.  On the day of the hearing, you should call the number on your hearing notice a couple of minutes before your scheduled hearing to make sure you are ready to get started on time.  Hearing officers usually have multiple hearings scheduled for every hour, so you may have to wait in the line while the hearing officer holds other hearings before yours. 

When the hearing officer is ready to start your hearing, she will call your name and ask for the names of everyone attending your hearing.  The hearing officer will then allow the parties to present their evidence and arguments.  Keep in mind that most telephone hearings are scheduled for 20 minutes, which means each party has, at most, only 10 minutes to present their case.  If you have an attorney, s/he will argue your case for you and, when appropriate, ask you to testify about specific issues.  The hearing officer and other attorneys may ask you questions during the hearing as well. 

The hearing officer typically takes the matter under advisement at the end of the hearing so they can review the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing before issuing a written decision. Hearing officers rarely announce their decision at the hearing, but even when this happens the decision is not final until it is issued in writing. In most cases, the parties will receive a written decision within a week after the hearing. If any party disagrees with the written decision, they have 14 days to file an appeal. 

More detailed information about the Ohio Industrial Commission, appeals process, and hearing levels are available at the Ohio Industrial Commission’s website at

For more information about workers’ compensation hearings, talk to the experienced Ohio Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at The Bainbridge Firm. We can provide you with all the information needed before your first hearing.

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