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Q-“Why has my case been postponed so many times?”

Let's be honest. Requesting a hearing is as “easy as pie.” The hearing is assigned two days after your lawyer requests one and the date is 60-75 days away. You say, that's great, let's go.

However, a basic principle in court hearing is that everyone, all parties, must have time to prepare. The insurance company MUST, by Court Rules, have an attorney assigned to defend them within 20 days of the date the hearing notice is published.

Then the insurance company must answer the written questions I send to them. They are given 30 days plus mailing to respond. That is 50 days.

Now they call me and ask for a first time postponement. All judges will grant that postponement even if I stand up and say no!

Then the insurance lawyers send us questions such as asking for a history of all your medical treatment in your entire life. All your jobs and whether you were fired from any of them. Your criminal/arrest history. Yes, they can ask this of you. We take 30 days to respond. Then they want to take your deposition. That takes 20-30 days to schedule and take down.

Then they start sending out subpoenas to all the names of doctors, hospitals, clinics, courts, prior jobs you have ever had. Sometimes quick responses come in. Sometimes they don't. This is added delay, usually 60 days.

Then the stinky insurance lawyer wants you to go to his/her hand-picked insurance doctor. A notice is sent to us. The examination is set for 30 days in the future, giving the insurance attorney enough time to collect all your prior medical records, trying to find a “smoking gun.”

Once the negative insurance doctor report comes in, the insurance company SHOULD be ready to go to court. Certainly, we are ready and have been ready for a long time.

Adding up all this time counts to about 5-6 months from the first hearing date. How frustrating this is. (But in an automobile accident case that will be decided by a jury, it will be a 2 year wait and maybe longer.)

Generally speaking your case should be ready by the 3rd setting. Any postponements after that need to be discussed with my clients and I need to be prepared to present to my client a pretty good reason why we need a 4th setting.

I will say this: no judge will force an insurance company to try a case before they have had legitimate and reasonable time to prepare their case. The key is reasonable and legitimate postponements.

It is my job to keep pressing the other side about obtaining medical records. This is the biggest source of delays in the workers' compensation system. I will insist on conference calls with the judge to hold the insurance company's feet to the fire. Still, judges do not want to have a case appealed because the other side argues they were deprived of sufficient time to prepare for court.

But what if your deposition testimony does not go well? What if old medical records of a prior injury surfaces and it could have direct bearing on your case? We may want to postpone to obtain other records or to go to another doctor for an opinion to determine or the relevance of this newly discovered medical record.

Litigation (requesting a hearing before a judge) has many consequences we do not initially see.  There are pluses and minuses of requesting a hearing on any issue. Are you ready? Is your lawyer ready?

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