Guide to the discovery process in Arizona workers’ comp cases
Workers’ compensation laws are in place to protect injured workers. Ideally, an injured employee should receive compensation after filing the necessary paperwork. Unfortunately, this is not often the case due to disputes.
Under Arizona workers’ compensation laws, the injured worker, the employer or the insurance company can request a hearing to resolve the dispute. Before the hearing, there will be time for discovery. This forms the backbone of any lawsuit.
Here is everything you need to know about the discovery process.
What is discovery?
Discovery is a pre-hearing stage during which both sides gather evidence and information. The 2 parties exchange information regarding evidence and witnesses. It is during this process that each party evaluates the strength of their case.
This discovery is crucial in a workers’ compensation hearing process because the case can be thrown out at this stage. Alternatively, the insurance can decide to settle after seeing the evidence you plan to table during the hearing. In Arizona, all workers’ compensation disputes are overseen by the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA).
Here are some of the reasons why this process is so vital in your workers’ comp case:
- It will help your attorney find out the evidence against you. This information is useful when preparing for your defense in court.
- Your attorney can’t be ambushed during the trial by new evidence; hence, you’ll have a better chance of winning.
- The case is narrowed down to only specific areas in dispute. This saves everyone time and helps resolve the case faster.
- It is a chance for both parties to communicate and reconsider. Many cases are settled during discovery. This cuts the waiting period.
What to expect during discovery
Although many processes occur during workers’ compensation discovery, a significant amount of time is spent on finding out new information. The 3 main aspects of a workers’ compensation discovery process are deposition, interrogatories and Independent Medical Exams (IMEs).
A deposition is an excellent tool used to gather relevant information before a hearing. It involves asking a set of questions under oath. The whole process happens out of court. The person being asked the questions, the deponent, usually has to go to the questioning attorney’s office. Although the process happens out of court, a private court reporter must be present to make a recording of the deposition. Your legal team will take the opportunity to find out what the witnesses will say during the hearing.
You will most likely find yourself on the receiving end of the questioning. Fortunately, you are allowed to have your attorney present during this process. You will be under oath and must tell the truth during deposition. It is your attorney’s responsibility to prepare to answer tricky questions without damaging your case or lying.
The questioning typically starts with basic information, such as your name, date of birth and employment. The deposing lawyer will then ask about the injuries, how they happened and if you suffered prior injuries. Other areas of interest will be any treatments you have undergone since then and the current limitations due to the injury.
Once the request for a hearing has been filed, each party will submit written questions for the opposing party to answer. The parties are allowed to exchange information back and forth.
There is also a limit to the number of interrogatories per party. This varies from state to state. Under Arizona Revised Statutes, parties are limited to 25 inquiries. The interrogatories submitted by your workers’ compensation attorney should find out more about the case.
Here are a few examples.
- Your job description at the company
- The basis for denying your claim and the evidence that supports each contention
- When and how they received notice of your injury
An experienced lawyer will know what questions to ask, so you should not worry too much about interrogatories.
3. Medical examinations
A medical examination is needed to determine the cause and expense of the injuries. It is also the only way to determine the necessary course of treatment. This is important as it determines the amount of compensation. However, it is common for the insurer to request an independent medical exam to settle any medical disputes between the 2 parties.
Although the IME doctor is supposed to be neutral, in most cases, that isn’t true. Treat it the same way you would a deposition. Prepare before going in for an IME. Have all the necessary documents, including a scan with you. You can also make notes of anything you might forget. The doctor will also ask how the injury happened, the pain levels and any treatments you may have already undergone. Try to be polite and don’t exaggerate your injuries during the examination. Remain calm; remember, you can challenge the report if it is inaccurate.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Importance of hiring the right Arizona workers’ comp attorney
Hopefully, you now understand why the discovery process is so vital to your case. The handling of your workers’ compensation discovery determines whether you will get full compensation or have the case thrown out. Having the right work injury attorney by your side can make all the difference.