Informal hearings are typically scheduled in a district office close to where you live or in a nearby county. You will receive notice of the hearing date, time, assigned Judge, and the address and phone number of the hearing approximately two weeks before the hearing date.
During the hearing the Judge will review your medical records and any benefits you have already received. The Judge may ask you questions about your disability and whether your injury has limited your physical activities. Then the Judge will have a discussion with you and the insurance claims representative and based upon the information provided, the Judge will recommend a settlement amount. The recommendation does not have the effect or protection of a judicial decision, but if everyone agrees with the recommendation, you will be asked to sign an agreement. A payment will be issued to you from your employer or their insurance carrier as soon as possible.
If your condition gets worse or you need additional medical treatment after accepting an informal settlement, you should contact your employer or their insurance carrier with your request for treatment and/or additional benefits. If the additional benefits are not provided you have the option of filing a formal Claim Petition with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. The formal claim must be filed within two years from the date of the accident or the last payment of benefits, whichever is later.
You have a right to an attorney (or you may just want one to help you navigate the system) whose services may include collecting all medical records and obtaining appropriate medical evaluations so that information regarding your residual conditions is provided to the Judge before a determination is made. The Judge of Compensation may allow an attorney’s fee, where warranted, for services rendered on behalf of the worker in an amount not to exceed 10% of the settlement award.
If you decide not to accept the proposed settlement, you still have two years from the date of the accident or from the last payment of benefits to file a formal Claim Petition. If you have questions and would like to discuss your workers’ compensation case in more detail, contact me for a free consultation here in my frim’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office.