In a workers compensation case, the Judge of Compensation Claims is granted authority to rule on certain issues that may arise in a case. One common misconception that many injured workers have is that a Judge has the authority to decide how much money should be offered in a settlement. This belief is not correct as settlement is completely voluntary for both the injured employee as well as the Employer and their insurance company. Therefore, the Judge assigned to a case cannot give a ruling which would require the Employer/Carrier to offer a certain amount of money to settle the case.
A Judge of Compensation Claims does however possess the power to rule on any issues which may arise in a case. For example, a Judge can decide whether benefits should be provided to an employee if a Petition for Benefits is filed by an attorney on behalf of an injured worker requesting certain benefits and those benefits have been denied by the Employer/Carrier. The two types of benefits that an injured worker is entitled to in a workers compensation case consist of medical treatment and wage benefits. For an injured worker to be entitled to lost wage benefits, an authorized physician must either opine that the employee cannot work at all due to his or her injuries or place the employee on light duty restrictions which the Employer cannot accommodate. A common scenario in which wage benefits are denied by the Employer/Carrier is when an employee is on light duty restrictions. Many times an Employer holds the position that light duty work is available even though this is not the case. This would be an issue that a Judge would rule on given the evidence that is provided in a case.
An example of when a Judge rules on an issue consisting of medical treatment is if an injured worker has been recommended surgery by an authorized physician, but the Employer/Carrier denies the surgery. In many cases, deposition testimony from physicians that have treated an injured employee are required for a Judge to make a ruling. Once the Judge has been presented with all of the evidence from both parties, a ruling is made to determine whether the Employer/Carrier should provide the surgery to the injured worker.
As you can see, a Judge of Compensation Claims has the authority to decide whether certain benefits should be provided to an injured employee or whether they should be denied. That is why it is important to hire a workers compensation attorney who handles these types of situations. If you were injured on the job or know of someone who was, have them give us a call at (844) 762-8155.