Will There Be a Trial if My Workers’ Compensation Claim Can’t Be Resolved?

When you’ve been hurt in a work-related accident and your employer or its insurer has denied your claim, you no doubt want to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible so you can begin receiving the benefits to which you are entitled. The fastest way for workers’ compensation claims to be resolved, as with almost all disputes, is by agreement. But when efforts at a settlement have been exhausted, New Mexico’s workers’ compensation system provides a venue and mechanism for a specialized judge to hold a formal hearing to decide the issues in dispute.

Mediation First

After a complaint has been filed with New Mexico’s Workers’ Compensation Administration, the law requires the parties to participate in a mediation conference designed to encourage the parties to resolve the matter by agreement. Mediation conferences and hearings may be held at the nearest WCA office or in the county where the accident occurred, unless all the parties (including the mediator or judge) agree in advance to hold the hearing somewhere else. Some conferences and hearings are now also held by video conference hookup. Employees should, but are not required to, have a lawyer present at the settlement conference, as the employer or insurer will no doubt have their own attorney or attorneys there. Proceeding without a lawyer at the mediation can put the worker at a profound disadvantage.

Specialized Court System for Workers’ Compensation

If a resolution is not reached at or after the mediation, and one or both of the parties reject a “recommended resolution” proposed by the mediator, the dispute will proceed to a formal hearing before a judge in a specialized court system administered by the WCA. While there are fewer delays in the WCA court system than there are in the notoriously slow civil courts, it will still take at least eight months or more after a complaint is filed before it gets to trial.

The hearing held before the workers’ compensation judge is very much a trial and formal court proceeding, with procedures similar to civil court and rules of evidence applied. Witnesses, including the worker, may be called, documentation and testimony as to the workers’ injury and other relevant matters will be presented, and the judge may only consider matters properly introduced into evidence. Given the often complex nature of the rules and procedures involved, it is crucial that you have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer represent you before, during, and after the hearing.

If the parties do not reach a settlement prior to the conclusion of the trial, the workers’ compensation judge will issue a decision resolving the matter. If one of the parties is dissatisfied with the decision and believes that the judge committed errors that could be the basis of an appeal, the party can file an appeal with the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The strict and complicated rules and procedures of the Court of Appeals apply to cases appealed from the workers’ compensation court.

The process of seeking to obtain workers’ compensation benefits is very much like that of a lawsuit one would file in civil court. Just as having a lawyer represent you in a lawsuit can significantly increase your chances of obtaining a better result, so too can having a workers’ compensation lawyer at your side while you seek to get the benefits you have earned.

The Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Brown: Fighting for New Mexico Workers

We know how hard you work, and we’ll work just as hard for you. Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Brown & Derek Thompson today at (505) 275-6600 or fill out our online form to arrange for your free initial consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation matter. We look forward to helping you get back on your feet, and back to work.

This website has been prepared by the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Brown for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.