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Stages of the workers' compensation dispute process

Getting injured at work is an inherently stressful experience, but having one's employer dispute the incident or injuries can be even more draining. In the state of Massachusetts, there are generally four steps to the workers' compensation dispute process.

Whether one has suffered burns, neck and back injuries, broken bones or occupational disease, a dispute may arise with either one's employer or the insurer of the workplace. Should this occur, the worker may attend a conciliation session, which is an informal meeting between the work accident victim and their employer's insurer. Proposed changes in benefit amounts may result from these sessions, but only if both parties agree to them.

At times a workers' compensation case will be referred by a conciliator to a second level, known as a conference. While a conference is also informal, if matters are not settled at this point a judge can issue a temporary order. This order has the ability to make an insurer pay compensation to someone who has been injured on the job. Both the worker and the insurer can appeal the order, however. If either party chooses to appeal the order emerging from a conference, a hearing will then be the third level. This formal hearing functions in a manner similar to a trial, where witnesses may be called and testimonies are heard.

If either party is unsatisfied with the judge's decision at the hearing, they may appeal to the review board. A trio of administrative law judges will review the transcripts from the hearing; they may also request legal arguments. Under certain circumstances, the previous judge's decision may be reversed.

Getting workers' compensation claims through the system successfully can be a huge challenge. Injured workers are usually already coping with physical and financial hardships, all while navigating a confusing set of rules and procedures. A work injury attorney may be able to guide a hurt worker through the process and advocate on his or her behalf.

Source: Mass.gov, "The steps of the dispute process," Accessed June 5, 2015

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