The process of workers’ compensation hearings in Minnesota follows a two-tiered approach.
Cases are first sent to the Settlement Division, where the sides attempt to resolve their issues in an informal conference. No transcript is taken at this conference. Each side simply presents what it wants, the petitioner makes a demand for a particular amount, and the employer or insurer responds.
If no settlement is reached, the case moves on to the Hearing Division. In some cases, a pre-trial settlement conference may be held at the Hearing Division to once again try to resolve the case without a full formal hearing.
If the case remains unresolved at this point, it will be assigned to a Workers’ Compensation Judge. This proceeding is more formal than the attempts at settlement. There are specific rules that apply to the proceedings under Minnesota law. The parties are asked to offer specific case law and precedents to the judge in addition to the testimony, written evidence and witnesses. This is where it is especially helpful to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to lead the way.
In the hearing, witnesses will take an oath to tell the truth and will be formally questioned by the parties or their attorneys. The hearing will be recorded, either by an audio recording or in transcript form by a court reporter. After the judge has considered all the evidence, he or she will issue a formal document called the Findings and Order. This document presents the judge’s opinion of the evidence and the decision.
If either side is unhappy with the decision, they can appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. From there, the case would be appealed, if necessary, to the Minnesota Supreme Court.