First, you did the right thing by requesting a hearing. Generally, your hearing will be held in the city or county where the accident occurred, within 6-8 weeks of your request. A Deputy Commissioner will make the initial decision at this hearing, usually through a written opinion issued several weeks after the hearing.
There are two types of initial hearings: evidentiary and on-the-record. At an evidentiary hearing, you and your witnesses testify under oath about your accident or disease. You also submit evidence to support your claim for benefits. An evidentiary hearing is formal, like a court hearing. Sometimes the Commission will determine an evidentiary hearing is not necessary. In this case, you have an on-the-record hearing. Instead of appearing in person, you submit written statements and documents for the deputy commissioner to review. On-the-record hearings usually have quicker results than evidentiary hearings.
If you or your employer disagrees with the deputy commissioner’s decision, you both have the right to appeal the decision within 30 days to the Full Commission. You may be asked to submit written statements that it reviews along with the documents and statements submitted to the deputy commissioner. Sometimes the Commission will require oral arguments before making a decision. In either case, the Commission will review all the evidence and issue an opinion.
If the Full Commission decides against you, you still have two more appeals for review (and so does your employer) with the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Few cases are appealed to this level, but it does happen.
Having an attorney represent you for your hearing can be extremely beneficial. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you gather the documents you need and make sure you are prepared for each step in the process. If you have filed for a hearing and are unsure what to do next, we encourage you to contact our go-to workers’ compensation lawyer, Randy Appleton.