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Posted On 01.03.13 by in Workers' Compensation
The final phase of a Maryland workers’ compensation claim, assuming that it is not settled or stipulated.
The nature and extent hearing is where the case finally comes to fruition for our clients. In many cases, they have dealt with too much time out of work, therapy and other medical care, perhaps vocational rehabilitation, and general pain. At a nature and extent hearing, the Workers’ Compensation Commission will decide the value of the claim.
To get to a hearing, the injured worker must be at maximum medical improvement (commonly called MMI). This doesn’t mean that the worker is done with medical treatment, but it means that the worker’s condition has plateaued, and that no other medical care with significantly change the situation. Many workers who have reached maximum medical improvement continue to receive pain management, for example.
When the worker is at MMI, he will have one last appointment with his doctor, who will give him a permanency rating. The goal is for the doctor to determine the extent of the worker’s permanent partial disability (PPD), using criteria specified by Maryland law (not all doctors know these criteria). The worker will also have one appointment with a doctor hired by the insurance company for the same purpose. In most cases, the worker’s doctor will give him a higher rating than the insurance company’s doctor.
Before the hearing, the worker should meet with his lawyer to prepare. Workers’ compensation hearings are not exactly like trials—they are fast, and the Commissioners usually like to keep things moving. If you watch legal dramas on television, you know that it is usually objectionable to lead the witness (to imply the correct answer to a witness). In a workers’ compensation case, some degree of leading is usually expected and even requested. Many Commissioners allow the lawyers to give a narrative of the important background facts.
The important moment for the injured worker will be a description of how the work injury continues to affect his life. In the case of a back injury, for example, it may inhibit lifting heavy objects like work supplies or children. It may require continual medication because of constant pain.
The Commissioner will evaluate all of the testimony and the competing medical expert reports. Usually within a few days or weeks, he or she will decide what rating of permanency to give the worker. That rating will be used to calculate an “award.”
Now, the Commission’s ruling on nature and extent does not strictly end the claim—a worker might make future claims for related medical treatment, or could reopen the case if his condition worsens.
If you want to know the value of your Maryland workers’ compensation claim, contact our lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some information about your case online. We can explain the workers’ compensation process from beginning to end.
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