Top Ten Tools of the Trade: Workers’ Compensation guest author: Valerie Foote, JD
Identify the Facts of the Case.
The first point of investigation when a file is received is whether the Claimant is considered an ’employee’, and whether the state in which they are filing their claim has jurisdiction. If you can identify any issues with regard to the Claimant’s status as an employee or subject matter jurisdiction, these will likely need to be resolved before the case can proceed. Once it has been established that the Claimant was an employee at the time of the injury and the court in which they are filing has jurisdiction over the case, identify the pertinent facts of the case. A great way to do this is an a memorandum to the attorney, breaking down what the injury is and the basic facts as to how it occurred, identifying the issues for litigation, and providing a rough estimate of the likely outcome of the case based on the merits. If additional avenues of investigation are apparent from the initial file materials, make a note of what they are and follow up with the attorney to see how they’d like to proceed with investigation.
Send and Respond to Discovery.
The discovery process is crucial in workers’ compensation cases, because it furnishes information and documents that are necessary to build your case. Discovery is often served with the Arbitration Petition or the Answer to the same. Be diligent in following up with your client to get the information needed to respond to discovery. If they are unsure how to respond or what to provide, walk them through it. If your deadline is approaching, request an extension from opposing counsel. If the deadline has passed and you’re waiting to receive discovery, send a good faith letter. The more you stay on top of the timeliness of each side’s responses, the faster you will obtain the information needed to build your case.