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How does the Minnesota workers' compensation legal system work?

Under MN workers’ compensation, there are two different places or venues a disputed or claim can be filed– Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry or the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. The type of document filed and the nature of the dispute will dictate where it will be heard. Typically, DOLI will hear issues of medical and rehabilitation under $7,500 if it is an admitted claim (paid benefits). OAH will hear all other disputes including wage loss and disputes over $7,500 where claims are either admitted or denied. Documents that can be filed to recover benefits can include:

  • Medical Requests;
  • Claim Petitions; and
  • Rehabilitation Requests.

Once a claim has been filed the employer and insurer have a right to undergo discovery which includes the injured worker to undergo what is called an Independent Medical Examination (IME). In certain cases, an employer and insurer may also request an Independent Vocational Evaluation if the injured worker claims that their ability to earn has been reduced by the injury. During the discovery process, the injured worker and her attorney are also afforded an opportunity to obtain records from the employer, conduct depositions of experts and relevant parties and request medical records before going to a hearing.

MN Work Comp Conferences and Hearings

Once the appropriate documents have been filed with the state a conference or hearing will be scheduled. The purpose of an administrative conference is to resolve issues regarding medical and rehabilitation services. Administrative conferences are typically scheduled for a half hour to an hour and are less formal than a hearing as no sworn testimony is given and a formal record is not kept.

A hearing is the equivalent of “trial” in civil cases. However, it is nothing like you see on TV. Instead, hearings are conducted at OAH or other designated locations throughout the state. There is no jury but instead, a compensation judge that will consider all of the evidence. A hearing before the judges will be scheduled for either a half or a full day depending on the issues. The parties offer evidence and sworn testimony is given. The parties are bound to follow certain rules when conducting themselves at a hearing.

Following the conclusion of the conference or hearing, the mediator or Judge will take the matter under advisement and issue a Decision and Order (DO) or a Findings and Order (FO), which can be appealed within 30 days. If it is an administrative decision (DO) any party can request a formal evidentiary hearing before a compensation judge. If it is a hearing it can be appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.