One of the more difficult parts of the Minnesota workers’ compensation system is understanding how the process works. For many injured workers this is the first time they have ever had an injury. At times the process can be like assembling IKEA furniture – frustrating and oftentimes, stressful. Fortunately, there are lawyers (including myself) that are experienced and can provide guidance through the process.
Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) v. Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH)
Under MN workers’ compensation there are two different places or venues a dispute can be heard – DOLI or OAH. 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 filed to recover benefits can include:
1. Medical Requests;
2. Claim Petitions; and
3. Rehabilitation Requests.
Administrative 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 then 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 the issues. The parties offer evidence and sworn testimony is given. The parties are bound to follow certain rules when conducting themselves at hearing.See Video.
Following the conclusion of the conference or hearing, the mediator or Judge will take the matter on 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.
Prior to a hearing the court may schedule a settlement conference. This is an informal attempt to resolve the case by meeting with the parties and exchanging a demand for settlement and a response. The Compensation Judge works with the parties to attempt to resolve the case without the necessity of a hearing. If the parties are unable to resolve the case the matter is then sent to the trial judge to hold a hearing.
A Pretrial Conference may get scheduled by the trial judge to discuss the issues to be addressed at hearing. Typically, they are held over the phone but it may also be held in person. Both sides will discuss what evidence they will present, what witnesses will testify and any other nessesary matters.
Appealling a Formal Decision
Any party has the right to appeal the order of the judge. If a party wishes to appeal, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of receipt of the order. The Workers Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) will review the hearing record. The WCCA can affirm, reverse, remand or modify the Judge’s order. All parties will receive a copy of the WCCA decision. Any party may also appeal the WCCA decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Workers compensation law can be difficult to understand. If you have been denied workers’ compensation benefits or need to discuss your Minnesota workers compensation case, we at the Law Office of Thomas Mottaz are workers’ compensation attorneys that help people with Minnesota work injuries anywhere in MN. Contact us for a free consultation and we will answer your questions or help you find the right lawyer for your case.