With a workers’ compensation claim, the process of filing the initial claim is relatively simple. We file a form called the WC-14, which is essentially a notice of claim (it also can serve as a request for a hearing) that we file with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Over the last 10 years, attorneys have been able to file these forms electronically with the State Board’s website. That initiates the claim. Then, if it’s a hearing case, within a few weeks, the insurance company will assign the file to an attorney, and the defense attorney will file some kind of notice of representation on the claim.
We will go through the discovery process where we will arrange type-written questions called interrogatories. They’ll want to take our client’s deposition, which will involve them coming to the office. The defense attorney will be there; there will be a court reporter, and the defense attorney will be asking questions of our client under oath. A lot of times the case may involve, assuming the client is getting medical treatment and there’s a dispute over the treatment that’s being recommended by an authorized physician, the defense sending our client for what’s called an independent medical examination. This is where they send our client to another doctor to get an opinion more favorable to their cause.
Ultimately, the case heads toward a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. In Georgia, these are devoted workers’ compensation judges. They only hear workers’ compensation cases, but the vast majority of these cases end up getting settled before they ever go to a hearing. But there are some that do.