Trials in Louisiana Workers Compensation

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Requesting a Trial in Louisiana Workers Compensation

A workers compensation trial - also know as a workers compensation hearing - is requested by filing a Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008) with the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation.

A copy of the actual LWC-WC Form 1008 is available here.

But before filing a Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008) in Louisiana workers compensation, certain steps must be taken, and certain procedures must be followed.

First, the employee must be report the accident or injury to the employer within 30 days after the accident or injury occurs or is discovered by the employee.

Then, if the employee's workers compensation claim is denied - either in whole or in part - the employee can file a Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008) with the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation, which essentially requests a trial.

However, additional deadlines and procedures exist for authorization and appeal of requested medical treatment, and these procedures must be followed for medical claims before an injured employee can file a Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008).

Specifically, Louisiana's "Utilization Review" rules provide the following process and procedures to be followed when an injured employee seeks approval from the workers compensation insurance company to begin or continue treatment beyond the limit of $750:

    • The medical provider requests authorization for treatment from the workers compensation insurance company, and the insurance company must notify the medical provider within 5 business days of receipt of the request of the action taken on it.
    • If the request is denied, “any aggrieved party” must file, within 15 calendar days, an appeal by filing a LWC-WC 1009 “Disputed Claim for Medical Treatment” appeal with the OWCA medical director, who then renders a decision “as soon as is practicable” but in no event more than 30 days from the filing of the appeal. 
    • After the issuance of the OWCA medical director's decision, “any party who disagrees” with the decision may then appeal by filing a ‘Disputed Claim for Compensation' Form 1008 within 15 days after the mailing of the decision of the medical director.
    • This filing of the Form 1008 begins the ordinary legal process for other workers' compensation claims.
    • A workers' compensation judge then considers the decision by the medical director and may reverse it “when it is shown, by clear and convincing evidence” that the decision of the medical director “was not in accordance with the provisions of this Section.”

So again, if the workers compensation insurance company denies the medical treatment requested by the health care provider, or does not respond within 5 days, the decision can be appealed to the OWC Medical Director by filing a Form LWC-WC 1009 (Disputed Claim for Medical Treatment) within 15 calendar days of the date of denial.

And then, any party who disagrees with the decision of the OWCA Medical Director can seek a review by the workers compensation district Judge by filing a Form LWC-WC 1008 (Disputed Claim for Compensation) with the appropriate OWCA district office within 15 days of the date of which the Medical Director's decision is mailed to the parties. 

Pre-Trial Procedures in Louisiana Workers Compensation

After the employee (or ideally the employee's attorney) files the Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008), the workers compensation insurance company then has 15 days after it is served to file an answer, although it may request an extension of up to an additional 10 days.

Additionally, the answer of the workers compensation insurance company may request a preliminary determination hearing, which usually must be held within 90 days.

The workers compensation Judge will issue a preliminary determination within 30 days of the preliminary determination hearing, which the losing party must accept or challenge within 10 days after receipt of the preliminary determination.

If the losing party challenges or fails to comply with the judge's preliminary determination within 10 days, the dispute goes to trial before the workers compensation judge.

Initial Scheduling Telephone Conferences

Typically, a telephone conference is set within 15 days from the date on which the defendant (the workers compensation insurance company) files its answer.

In this telephone conference, the OWC court will select certain deadlines for the claim, such as:

    1. A preliminary determination hearing shall be set within 90 days from the telephone status conference.
    2. The deadline for any discovery shall be 30 days before the preliminary determination hearing.
    3. The parties must exchange evidence 15 days before the hearing, with copies of the exhibits, the exhibit list and memorandum sent to the presiding workers' compensation Judge.

However, the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation identifies that the following issues may be considered and determined at the scheduling conference:

    1. The necessity or desirability of amendments to pleadings;
    2. Discovery anticipated by the parties;
    3. Deadlines for amendments to pleadings, completion of discovery and scheduling of pretrial motions;
    4. Scheduling of the pretrial conference and the scheduling of a pretrial mediation conference;
    5. Scheduling of the trial;
    6. The need for and scheduling of a pretrial conference; and 
    7. Such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the action.

A scheduling conference order shall be forwarded to the parties within three days of the telephone status conference.

The order shall include:

    1. A list of issues to be determined;
    2. The date of the scheduled hearing;
    3. The deadline for discovery;
    4. The deadline for the exchange of exhibits;
    5. The deadline for the submission of exhibits; and
    6. The deadline for the submission of memoranda to the court.

However, each Judge's/District's scheduling order could be different, so it is important to review the scheduling order carefully to determine deadlines for discovery, witness and exhibit lists as well as when exhibits need to be produced to the Court and the opposing parties.

For example, some Judges want to receive the trial exhibits before trial, while other Judges do not want to receive them until the day of trial. 

Mediation Conferences

Once a Disputed Claim for Compensation" with the Office of Workers Compensation Administration is filed, the claim will be assigned to a workers compensation mediator.

Mediations are conducted by mediators, who are employees of the Office of Workers Compensation. 

All mediations are voluntary to attend, and neither party needs to settle a dispute at a mediation.

Basically, the entire mediation process is a voluntary attempt to settle the disputes between the parties, before moving on to the actual litigation.

Pre-Trial Statements and Pre-Trial Orders

Louisiana law and workers compensation rules require that all issues to be presented at trial, as well as potential witnesses and exhibits, must be listed in each party's Pre-Trial Statement to be presented to the Judge.

Specifically, the Louisiana Office of Workers Compensation requires that the Pre-Trial Statement include the following:

    1. Stipulations agreed to by all parties;
    2. Issues to be litigated;
    3. Contentions;
    4. A list and brief description of all exhibits to be offered at trial. (Exhibits to be used for impeachment or rebuttal need not be included in the list. Proposed stipulations as to exhibit authenticity and/or admissibility shall be noted in the exhibit list);
    5. A list of all witnesses to be called at trial. (The list shall include a short statement as to the nature but not the content of their testimony, and whether the testimony will be live or by deposition. Except for the witnesses listed, no other witnesses may be called to testify except for good cause shown. This requirement shall not apply to impeachment and rebuttal witnesses); and 
    6. Outstanding discovery and depositions to be taken.

So the parties should certainly discuss any stipulations - meaning agreements on key issues or facts - prior to submission of their Pre-Trial Statements.

Also, amendments to the Pre-Trial Statement are only allowed after written motion and good cause shown, and no new issues shall be raised except by written order of the Judge for good cause or upon mutual agreement of the parties.

Additionally, preparation of a Pre-Trial Order is required so that the Judge can sign off on the issues, witnesses, exhibits and stipulations to be presented at trial.

In addition, a Pre-Trial Conference via telephone conference with the Judge is a way in which the admissibility of some evidence can be stipulated to by and between the attorneys, may indicate whether a party is likely to be successful in introducing a contested exhibit. 

But more importantly, a Pre-Trial Conference is an opportunity to present an argument to the Judge, and perhaps receive a prediction about how the Judge will rule on the issues involved, and thereby be provided some guidance from the Judge as to a possible resolution of the issues involved prior to reaching an actual hearing.  

The Discovery Process in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Prior to a hearing with an OWC Judge, the parties are permitted to ask questions and obtain information from each other in a process known as discovery.

The discovery process offers a way to investigate a workers compensation claim with the support of legal remedies.

Full discovery is permitted in Louisiana workers compensation claims, which includes:

    1. The taking of depositions;
    2. The propounding of Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admission; and
    3. The issuance of subpoenas from the OWC.

So, Louisiana law and workers compensation rules permit the workers compensation Judges to issue subpoenas for the personal appearances of witnesses and for the production of records, but the workers compensation Judges can only issue subpoenas after one of the parties has properly requested such.

Nonetheless, the most commonly utilized methods of discovery in workers' compensation, generally, include written discovery (Requests for Admission, Interrogatories, Requests for Production), depositions, and subpoenas.

Also, the formal legal discovery process is extremely useful because it creates legally enforceable obligations.

For example, if the employee subpoenas the workers compensation insurance company for records, then the workers compensation insurance company party has a legal obligation to comply and produce those records, and it faces potential legal repercussions if it fails to do so.

Also, it is very important to understand that discovery creates a continuing obligation, which means that if certain responsive information is not available or complete at the time of the initial discovery response, then when this information becomes available, or if additional responsive information becomes available, it must be produced in accordance with the continuing obligation to supplement responses to discovery.

For example, if the workers compensation insurance company requests medical records, then not only must the employee produce what is in the employee's possession at the time, but the employee must also continue to produce medical records as the employee receives them.

Failure to supplement discovery responses can result in judicial sanctions that will impact a party's ability to effectively present a claim at trial.

Interrogatories and Requests for Production

In Louisiana workers compensation, Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions propounded by one party that are required to be answered by the other party in order to determine the facts about a claim and to determine what facts will be presented at trial.

Requests for Production are legal requests for documents, electronically stored information, or other tangible items made by one party that are required to be answered by the other party in order to determine the facts about a claim and to determine what facts will be presented at trial.

Interrogatories and Requests for Production allow the parties to obtain the initial information that will serve as a springboard to an investigation, and typically provide a foundation for identifying witnesses to depose and records to subpoena.

In other words, Interrogatories and Requests for Production are typically initial discovery requests that help to establish the basic facts and contentions in a workers compensation claim, which will further assist in narrowing the issues for litigation.

For example, Interrogatories typically ask the opposing party to identify witnesses to the accident, or individuals with knowledge about the claim; then, with such information, a party can move forward with conducting depositions in order to secure sworn testimony under oath from these individuals.

In another example, Requests for Production almost always include medical records. But often after reviewing these medical records, it becomes apparent that other medical records exists from additional medical providers or dates of service that are not in the possession of the opposing party; in such a situation a party will utilize subpoenas to access these additional medical records.  

Requests for Admission

Request for Admissions are a set of statements in the discovery process sent from one party to an adverse party, that require the receiving party to admit or deny the truth of each statement under oath; if admitted, the statement is considered to be true for all legal purposes including trial purposes.

Requests for Admission are generally used toward the end of the discovery process to:

    1. Settle uncontested issues;
    2. Simplify the trial; and
    3. Verify that certain documents are genuine.

Requests for Admission are an excellent tool that can be used to narrow the disputed issues in a claim, since oftentimes workers compensation claims give rise to limited disputes.

By identifying the specific disputes early on, and by stipulating to agreed-upon issues, the parties can focus their efforts on conducting discovery and building arguments on the specific issues that will be presented to the judge at trial.

For example, disputes regularly arise concerning the nature and extent of the disability (in other words, whether the injured worker has reached a state of maximum medical improvement and whether the worker can return to any gainful employment).

If this is the key issue of the dispute, then the parties may be able to stipulate to other issues, such as fact about the accident, causation, average weekly wage, or employment relationship.

Thus, stipulating to these agreed upon issues in response to Requests for Admission allows the parties to immediately narrow the issues for trial, resulting in the ability to focus discovery efforts only on pertinent issues.

Medical Records and Testimony

Generally speaking, medical evidence is the most important evidence in a workers compensation claim.

Medical evidence can be properly presented in the following ways:

    1. Certified copies of the medical records/reports of the healthcare provider;
    2. Deposition testimony of the healthcare provider; and
    3. Trial testimony of the healthcare provider.

However, under Louisiana law, neither party may present more than two physicians at where the evidence of any additional physician would be cumulative testimony.

By far, the best and most frequently used manners in which to present medical evidence are to present certified copies of the medical records/reports and certified copies of deposition transcripts of the healthcare provider.

In fact, though the employee's attorney should make sure that all medical records being submitted are certified, parties typically stipulate to the authenticity and admissibility of the medical records and transcripts.

Nevertheless, physicians rarely testify live and in person at a workers compensation trial.

Rather, the workers compensation courts and the parties will instead typically prefer deposition transcripts for all physicians, in order to save time, money and resources.

But the workers compensation Judge further does have the discretion to order, after a contradictory hearing properly noticed by the court, a deposition of a doctor if necessary to clarify a report or to obtain additional information, during the discovery period or at the trial on the merits.

Expert Witnesses

Once the employee's attorney has received the basic factual information about the claim through discovery, the employee's attorney must establish what evidence is needed to support the employee's claims and create a compelling argument to the workers compensation Judge.

Often, the next step is to have the appropriate expert witnesses review and give opinions about the claim in order to strengthen the likelihood of success.

In Louisiana workers compensation, an expert witness is a person who is allowed to testify at trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a particular field that is relevant to the workers compensation claim.

Expert witnesses can play a very important role in workers compensation litigation, especially since workers compensation often requires professional medical opinions or vocational rehabilitation opinions.

It is important to assess a claim properly so as to choose an expert in the right specialty, especially in the medical field.

For example, does the employee need a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon, or a psychiatrist or a neuropsychologist?

If the employee needs to counter the testimony of an orthopedic surgeon, the employee's chances for success will be much greater with the testimony of another orthopedic surgeon, rather than with a neurosurgeon.

Additionally, it is important to have a detailed understanding of the disputed issues to ensure the identification of an appropriate expert.

For example, does the employee need an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in total knee replacements or shoulder surgery, or a psychiatrist that specializes in addiction treatment or post-traumatic stress disorder?

Locating experts can often be tricky, especially if a unique specialty is needed, and the best way for an injured worker to do so is through an experienced workers compensation attorney who will utilize his experience and network of peers and other expert witnesses. 

Trial Procedure in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Following the pre-trial and discovery processes, the workers compensation Judge presides over a hearing and renders a decision. 

Trial proceedings before the Office of Workers Compensation are generally informal, but professional etiquette and appropriate conduct in a court of law should be exercised at all times.

Proceedings before the Office of Workers Compensation vary with each Judge; for example, some Judges require pre-trial briefs and opening and closing statements, while other Judges require only post-trial briefs and no argument of counsel. And most Judges require a pre-trial meeting with just the attorneys in an effort to hammer out an agreement.

Generally speaking, it takes about 3-6 months from the time that a Disputed Claim for Compensation (Form 1008) is filed until the time that the claim actually goes to trial. 

Usually, the only witnesses to testify live and in person at the trial are:

    1. The claimant;
    2. A representative of the employer;
    3. A representative of the insurance company;
    4. Any fact witnesses; and
    5. Any impeachment witnesses.

Typically, instead of appearing live at the trial, testimony from physicians or other experts is by deposition, which means that they give a deposition and the Judge simply reads what they have said in the deposition transcript, and is supported by certified medical records.

However, neither party is allowed at trial to introduce the testimony of more than two physicians where the evidence of any additional physician would be cumulative testimony, though the workers compensation Judge, on his or her own motion, may order that the employee be examined by other physicians.

At any rate, the record is typically is closed at the end of the trial, though the workers compensation Judges usually allow for post-trial memoranda (or written argument) to be considered.

Whenever the workers compensation Judge does allow or order post­-trial/hearing briefs, the parties shall be allowed a maximum of 15 working days from the conclusion of the trial or final submission of all evidence, whichever occurs latest, to file the briefs.

At the conclusion of the trial, but usually only after considering the post-trial memoranda, the workers compensation Judge will render an order, decision, or award as is proper, and the OWC will serve a copy of the order, decision, or award on each party by certified mail.

Typically, the workers compensation Judge will issues an order, decision, or award no later than 45 days after the conclusion of trial, submission of all evidence, or filing of post-trial or hearing briefs, whichever occurs last.

The workers compensation Judge will only provide written reasons for the Judge's decision if the written reasons are requested in written form by one of the parties within 10 days of the signing of the judgment, and the written reasons shall be issued by the judge not later than 45 calendar days following the request.  

Presenting Evidence at Trial

Though it is extremely important to be aware of proper procedural requirements, requirements for how, when, and what kind of evidence is presented will differ based on the jurisdiction and Judge.

First, it is helpful to narrow the issues for trial when selecting the evidence to be offered into the record, being mindful of the specific issues that the Judge will be considering, and what evidence best supports the employee's position.

Overwhelming the Judge with irrelevant evidence will only detract from the information relevant to the disputed issues. So, when deciding whether to introduce evidence into the record, ask first what essential element of the case it proves.

Medical records are obviously very critical in workers compensation trials, and all medical records to be admitted should be certified.

When determining which witnesses you will want to present at trial, be sure to consider first whether  it could be beneficial to request adjudication on the record - without any witnesses - as opposed to a live hearing. The purpose of a live hearing is to afford the Judge an opportunity to listen to witness testimony and to assess the credibility of the witnesses and their testimony, so a live hearing may not be necessary if credibility is not an issue.

Attorneys for injured workers must consider how the Judge would view the employee on the stand:

    • Is the employee a credible witness?
    • Is the employee believable, or sympathetic?
    • Is putting the employee on the stand going to help the employee's case? 

Attorneys for injured workers must consider how the Judge would view the employee's expert witnesses on the stand:

    • Is the deposition testimony of the expert witnesses sufficient?
    • Should the expert witnesses be subjected to live cross-examination before the Judge?
    • Are the written reports of the expert witnesses equally as effective as testimony?

Preparation of the live witnesses is critical to ensuring that the witness understands the employee's goals and objectives, and the types of questions they can expect.

Live witnesses - and especially inexperienced witnesses - must be prepared for cross-examination, and should know what to expect from opposing counsel, including whether they can expect to be treated aggressively.

Witnesses should understand and be comfortable with the process, and be abundantly aware of their obligation to tell the truth, including the repercussions of perjury.

Live expert witnesses need to have evaluated all of the pertinent evidence, and not just the evidence that is favorable to the employee's case, so that they can assess the facts that are both favorable and unfavorable to the employee's case in a way that will assist in achieving the employee's objectives.

Live expert witnesses should be prepared in order to provide live testimony, should be up to date on the latest research and publications on the issues, and should be prepared to respond to questions regarding methodology and evidence utilized, in addition to the expert's conclusions.   

"Relaxed" Evidence and Procedure Rules

Louisiana workers compensation trials are a hybrid between an administrative hearing (such as a social security disability hearing or an unemployment hearing) and Louisiana district courts (such as Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans or Federal District Court). 

Practically, this means that the rules of evidence and procedure are "relaxed" for workers compensation trials in Louisiana.

Specifically, Louisiana workers compensation law holds that: "The workers' compensation judge shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence or procedure..."

Of course, all trials are still held in front of workers compensation Judges (there are are no jury trials in workers compensation), and all appeals are heard by the Circuit Courts of Appeal.

However, when objections are made at a workers compensation trial in Louisiana, the workers compensation Judge does not have to follow the rules of evidence or procedure, but can decide on his or her own whether to follow the standard rules or to depart from them.

Again, this is because the rules of evidence and procedure are "relaxed" for workers compensation trials in Louisiana. 

Admissibility of Hearsay

The admissibility of hearsay is an important example of how the rules of evidence and procedure are "relaxed" for workers compensation trials in Louisiana. 

A typical hearsay situation will arise in a workers compensation trial where the injured worker becomes deceased, but previously made statements to a spouse, relative or friend, whose testimony is then offered to prove the truth of that statement.

Or another typical hearsay situation will arise in a workers compensation trial where the injured worker's statements were made to others relating to the accident, the employee's pain, or the employee's ability to work.

Even though such statements are technically hearsay, the workers compensation Judge will often admit statements made outside the courtroom if they were made fairly recently after the occurrence to which they relate, but will often exclude such statements if it they were made considerably later or under circumstances that their credibility is seriously to be doubted.

But most of the time, the workers compensation Judge will allow hearsay evidence, but will regard an objection to it as bearing on the weight to be accorded to the statement in question.

In other words, the workers compensation Judge may allow the hearsay, but may find the hearsay to be less credible or carry less weight, particularly if there is no other evidence to corroborate the hearsay.

How to Handle a Trial in Louisiana Workers Compensation

The following are tips and suggestion for attorneys on how to handle Louisiana workers compensation trials:

    • Be prepared.
    • Be efficient.
      • Try to agree on the authenticity and admissibility of exhibits ahead of the trial.
    • Know the law.
    • Understand the changes to the law, and understand how to apply the changes at trial.
      • This includes updates to the law such as the recent major changes to the Medical Guidelines and Treatment Schedule.
      • Keep up to date by reading new appellate court decisions, following the Legislative Session or subscribing to a group or service that keeps attorneys up to date of developments.
      • And, keep up to date with the Office of Workers Compensation updates posted under "Bulletins" by clicking here.
    • Know the claim.
      • At the minimum, do basic discovery requests, regardless of how narrow the issue is.
      • Don't conduct discovery while a witness is on the stand testifying.
    • Know the workers compensation Judge.
      • There are typically 16 workers compensation Judges throughout the state of Louisiana, and each handles trial differently, interprets law for himself or herself, and each has his or her own preferences.
      • While the Office of Workers Compensation has the authority to set forth the Hearing Rules, it is generally left up to the individual workers compensation Judges to interpret the law.
      • Many areas of law are discretionary for the workers compensation Judge.
      • Call the workers compensation Judge if there are any questions about how the workers compensation Judge handles his or her docket.
    • Know the workers compensation Judge's staff.
      • Just as every workers compensation Judge has a preferred manner of handling trial, every workers compensation Judge's assistant has preferences for handling those pre-trail decisions within his or her discretion.
      • The workers compensation Judge's assistant can be a great resource for information about how the workers compensation Judge handles the docket, how preliminary determination hearings are held, how the workers compensation Judge handles a scheduling order, how to request a status conference with the workers compensation Judge, and how best to get a case set for trial.
      • Knowing the workers compensation Judge's staff can save time and effort.
    • Be respectful.
      • Professionalism of attorneys is extremely important.
      • Unprofessional attorneys are:
        • Attorneys who argue with each other;
        • Attorneys who badger or are disrespectful of witnesses;
        • Attorneys who are rude to the workers compensation Judge;
        • Attorneys who are rude to OWC staff;
        • Attorneys' assistants or paralegals who are rude or condescending to OWC staff;
        • Attorneys who put the workers compensation Judge on speakerphone for a conference (while failing to mention that the client is sitting in on the conference);
        • Attorneys with clients or witnesses who believe they can compel a favorable result by glaring at the workers compensation Judge and opposing counsel throughout trial;
        • Attorneys with clients or witnesses who mumble under their breath during a hearing; and
        • Attorneys who threaten to take a writ or appeal.
    • Be reasonable.
      • Agree to continuances and time extensions when they are reasonably appropriate.
      • Treat others well, because once an attorney gets a reputation for being unreasonable, professional courtesies towards that person will be scarce or non‐existent.
    • Do the best work possible.
      • At a minimum:
        • Read medical records;􏰳  
        • Propound very basic discovery;
        • Answer all discovery;
        • Review all discovery responses;
        • Research legal issues;
        • Be familiar with different appellate circuits;
        • Be familiar with new statutes or procedures;
        • Communicate with the employee, opposing counsel and the court; and
        • Amend pleadings long before trial.
    • Remember that workers compensation is relaxed, but not that relaxed.
      • Do not go overboard with theatrics for a bench trial.
      • Dress as you would for a district court case.
      • In the pretrial conference, inform the workers compensation Judge:
        • That the issues have been narrowed and that other issues have been resolved;
        • How many witnesses the attorney intends to call; and
        • The estimate of how long trial will last.
      • Mention settlement discussions with the workers compensation Judge.
      • Considered the employee's worst case scenario as well as the best case scenario.
      • Do not go to trial “on the principle of the thing” or “because the client wants his or her day in court.”
      • Stipulate when appropriate.
      • Be prepared to object or not to an opponent's exhibits.
      • Do not present any testimony from family members about childhood, hopes and dreams, or anything to do with general damages (which are not allowed in workers compensation).
      • If giving a strong objection to an item of evidence, be prepared to explain why the relaxed evidentiary standard is not the issue.
      • Know how to impeach a witness. 
      • Be prepared to give an opening statement or a closing argument, but only give one if requested. 
      • Do not pout, roll your eyes, or sigh heavily.
      • If post‐trial briefs are requested, submit the brief on time, and ask the workers compensation Judge if there are particular issues on which to focus.
      • Always use 8.5” by 11” paper.

Many of these tips and suggestions have come directly from Louisiana workers compensation Judges. 

Trial Judgments in Louisiana Workers Compensation

At the conclusion of the trial, but usually only after considering the post-trial memoranda, the workers compensation Judge will render an order, decision, or award as is proper, and the OWC will serve a copy of the order, decision, or award on each party by certified mail.

Typically, the workers compensation Judge will issue an order, decision, or award no later than 45 days after the conclusion of trial, submission of all evidence, or filing of post-trial or hearing briefs, whichever occurs last.

The workers compensation Judge will only provide written reasons for the Judge's decision if the written reasons are requested in written form by one of the parties within 10 days of the signing of the judgment, and the written reasons shall be issued by the judge not later than 45 calendar days following the request.  

If the workers compensation Judge finds that the trial proceedings have not been brought on a reasonable ground, or that denial of benefits was not based on a reasonable ground, then the Judge shall order the unreasonable party to pay the total cost of the proceedings to the other party.

On motion of the court or any party, and after a hearing with notice to all parties or consent by all parties, a final judgment may be amended at any time to alter the phraseology of the judgment, but not its substance, or to correct errors of calculation. 

Modification of Trial Judgments

Once an injured employee has exhausted all his or her appeals, a judgment that denies benefits to the employee is final and can not be pursued any further by the employee.

However, for any other type of workers compensation judgment, the workers compensation Judge has continuing jurisdiction, which means that the Judge can make modifications or changes to that judgment.

In order to have a judgment modified, an injured employee (or even the workers compensation insurance company) must motion the workers compensation court to have a contradictory hearing to decide on a modification, and such a hearing is required to modify a judgment.

Modifications or changes to judgments awarding benefits can occur whenever the Judge finds that those modifications or changes are justified and legal.

But typically, a Judgment will be modified based on a change of conditions or circumstances with the employee or the employee's medical situation, and this modification will result in the increase, decrease, or termination of the benefits previously awarded. 

Judicial Interest on Trial Judgments

In Louisiana workers compensation, once a trial judgment has been issued, the winning party becomes entitled to judicial interest (or legal interest) at an annually-changing rate.

Judicial interest on all unpaid benefits runs from the date each benefit was due until the date of satisfaction of the judgment.

A useful judicial interest calculator can be found here.

Also, judicial interest on attorney's fees and penalties is calculated from the date of their award, rather than from the date of judicial demand.

However, a failure to request judicial interest may prevent a later request or award of the judicial interest. 

The Louisiana Statutes for Trials and Trial Procedure in Louisiana Workers Compensation

The primary Louisiana statutes regarding trials and trial procedure in Louisiana workers compensation courts are La. R.S. 23:1124.1, La. R.S. 23:1201.3, La. R.S. 23:1310.4, La. R.S. 23:1310.5, La. R.S. 23:1310.7, La. R.S. 23:1310.8, La. R.S. 23:1310.9 and La. R.S. 23:1317, which read as follows:

§1124.1.  Cumulative medical testimony; medical examination

Neither the claimant nor the respondent in hearing before the hearing officer shall be permitted to introduce the testimony of more than two physicians where the evidence of any additional physician would be cumulative testimony.  However, the hearing officer, on his own motion, may order that any claimant appearing before it be examined by other physicians.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. Jan. 1, 1989.  Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990.

§1201.3. Failure to pay compensation; judgment and execution; interest; revocation or suspension of insurer's license

A. If payment of compensation or an installment payment of compensation due under the terms of an award, except in case of appeals from an award, is not made within ten days after the same is due by the employer or insurance carrier liable therefor, the workers' compensation judge may order a certified copy of the award to be filed in the office of the clerk of court of any parish, which award whether accumulative or lump sum, when recorded in the mortgage records, shall be a judicial mortgage as provided in Civil Code Article 3299. Any compensation awarded and all payments thereof directed to be made by order of the workers' compensation judge shall bear judicial interest from the date compensation was due until the date of satisfaction. The interest rate shall be fixed at the rate in effect on the date the claim for benefits was filed with the office of workers' compensation administration.

B. Upon the filing of the certified copy of the workers' compensation judge's award a writ of execution shall issue and process shall be executed and the cost thereof taxed, as in the case of writs of execution, on judgments of courts of record, as provided by the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure.

C. If any insurance carrier intentionally, knowingly, or willfully violates any of the provisions of the Worker's Compensation Act, the insurance commissioner, on the request of a workers' compensation judge or the assistant secretary, shall suspend or revoke the license or authority of such insurance carrier to do compensation business in this state.

D. The provisions of this Section relating to the execution and process for the enforcement of awards shall be and are cumulative to other provisions now existing or which may hereafter be adopted relating to liens or enforcement of awards or claims for compensation.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 52, §1; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997.

§1310.4. Place hearings to be held

A.(1) At the time a claim is initiated with the assistant secretary, the claimant shall elect the situs of necessary hearings by the workers' compensation judge.

(2) If the claimant is a domiciliary of the state of Louisiana, he shall be required to elect either the judicial district of the parish of his domicile at the time he sustained his injury, the judicial district of the parish where the injury occurred, or the judicial district of the parish of the principal place of business of the employer.

(3) In the event that the claimant is not a domiciliary of the state of Louisiana, the necessary hearings shall be held in the judicial district of the parish of the principal place of business of the employer, provided, that if the injury occurred within the state, the hearings shall be held in the judicial district of the parish where the injury occurred.

(4) In the event the claimant is not a domiciliary of the state of Louisiana and the accident resulting in injury occurred outside the territorial limits of the state, the hearings shall be held in the judicial district of the parish in this state wherein the contract of employment was made or in which the employment was principally localized.

B. After the election has been made as provided above, all future hearings affecting the claimant's case shall be held in the workers' compensation district so designated unless the workers' compensation judge, upon agreement by the claimant and the employer, shall transfer such cause for hearing to any other workers' compensation district agreed upon. In addition, hearings may be held in any workers' compensation district if the workers' compensation judge determines that good cause has been shown.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1991, No. 892, §1; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2004, No. 341, §1, eff. June 18, 2004.

§1310.5. Hearing and appellate procedures; reported opinions

A.(1) Insofar as may be possible, all the evidence pertaining to each case, except as to noncontested matters, shall be heard by the workers' compensation judge initially assigned to the case. Upon the completion of such hearing or hearings, the workers' compensation judge shall make such order, decision, or award as is proper, just, and equitable in the matter.

(2) Either party feeling aggrieved by such order, decision, or award shall, after receipt by certified mail of the order, decision, or award, have the right to take an appeal to the circuit court of appeal for the judicial district elected by the claimant upon the filing of the petition. The motion and order for appeal shall be filed with the district office assigned to handle the claim, which shall be responsible for preparation of the record for the appellate court.

B. The decision of the workers' compensation judge shall be final unless an appeal is made to the appropriate circuit court of appeal. An appeal which suspends the effect or execution of an appealable judgment or order must be filed within thirty days. An appeal which does not suspend the effect or execution of an appealable judgment or order must be filed within sixty days. The delay for filing an appeal commences to run on the day after the judgment was signed or on the day after the district office has mailed the notice of judgment as required by Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 1913, whichever is later. Motions for new trial shall be entertained in disputes filed under this Chapter. The delay for filing an appeal when a motion for new trial has been filed shall be governed by the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure.

C. When there has been an award of benefits by the workers' compensation judge, no appeal by an employer shall be entertained by the appellate court unless the employer secures a bond with one or more sureties to be approved by the workers' compensation judge, guaranteeing that the employer will pay the amount of the award rendered therein together with interest thereon as otherwise provided by law, and all costs of the proceeding. The time limits for perfecting the bond shall be as provided in the Code of Civil Procedure, but shall not commence to run against the appellant until the appellant is notified by the workers' compensation judge as to the amount of the bond fixed in accordance with law.

D. When the only controverted issue in a death claim is the determination of proper beneficiaries entitled to receive death benefits, and the competing beneficiaries appeal the decision of the workers' compensation judge, the employer or insurance carrier may pay the proceeds, as they accrue, to the assistant secretary. The assistant secretary shall hold the proceeds in trust in an interest-bearing account during the appellate period and shall distribute the proceeds and interest to the beneficiaries designated in final award or judgment. The employer or insurance carrier shall not be taxed interest or cost on the order of the death claim if payments have been made to the assistant secretary as they accrue.

E.(1) An order for physical therapy or a work hardening program shall not be suspended during the pendency of any appeal.

(2) Regardless of whether the judgment rendered by the workers' compensation judge is in favor of the employer or the employee, when the workers' compensation judge has made a specific finding that further delay for surgery would, more likely than not, result in death, permanent disability, or irreparable injury to the claimant, any appeal of the judgment shall be entitled to preference and priority and handled on an expedited basis. In such cases, the record shall be prepared and filed within fifteen days of the granting of the order of appeal. The court of appeal shall hear the case within thirty days after the filing of the appellee's brief.

F. All workers' compensation decisions of the circuit courts of appeal shall be published opinions. The published opinions in any reporter shall identify the office of workers' compensation district from which the appeal was taken and the identity of the workers' compensation judge who rendered the judgment or award that is the subject of appeal.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 26, §1; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1989, No. 454, §9, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1995, No. 246, §1, eff. June 14, 1995; Acts 1995, No. 348, §1, eff. June 16, 1995; Acts 1995, No. 396, §1; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2001, No. 361, §1; Acts 2001, No. 593, §1; Acts 2003, No. 485, §1; Acts 2003, No. 709, §1.

§1310.7. Orders; subpoenas; judgments; enforcement; contempt

A. A workers' compensation judge shall have the power to enforce any order or judgment he shall deem proper which is issued pursuant to the powers and jurisdiction provided for in this Chapter and the Constitution of Louisiana. This power shall not include the authority to order a person confined.

B.(1) Direct contempt in a workers' compensation proceeding shall be as defined in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 222, except that it shall be committed before or in response to a subpoena or summons of a workers' compensation judge instead of the court. In a case of direct contempt, the workers' compensation judge may assess a civil fine of up to five hundred dollars for each such contempt violation which shall be payable to the Kids Chance Scholarship Fund, Louisiana Bar Foundation.

(2) Constructive contempt in a workers' compensation proceeding shall be as defined in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 224, except that it shall be concerning the workers' compensation judge and hearing procedures instead of the court. In a case of constructive contempt, the workers' compensation judge may assess a civil fine of up to five hundred dollars for each such contempt violation which shall be payable to the Kids Chance Scholarship Fund, Louisiana Bar Foundation.

(3) In any case where the workers' compensation judge has found a party in direct or constructive contempt, or has imposed sanctions on a party for conduct in connection with the litigation of a claim, the workers' compensation judge shall issue written reasons in connection with said ruling and shall report such findings to the assistantsecretary on a form promulgated by the assistant secretary, within thirty days of the ruling.

C. Workers' compensation judges shall have the authority to issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum as provided in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Articles 1351 through 1354. Subpoenas issued pursuant to this Section may be served by certified mail, return receipt requested.

D. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to limit the power of the workers' compensation judge to encourage compliance with and enforcement of his orders by means other than referral to the district courts for contempt proceedings.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1992, No. 762, §1; Acts 1993, No. 884, §1; Acts 1995, No. 348, §1, eff. June 16, 1995; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2005, No. 257, §1.

§1310.8. Jurisdiction continuing; determining as to final settlement

A.(1) The power and jurisdiction of the workers' compensation judge over each case shall be continuing and he may, upon application by a party and after a contradictory hearing, make such modifications or changes with respect to former findings or orders relating thereto if, in his opinion, it may be justified, including the right to require physical examinations as provided for in R.S. 23:1123; however, upon petition filed by the employer or insurance carrier and the injured employee or other person entitled to compensation under the Workers' Compensation Act, a workers' compensation judge shall have jurisdiction to consider the proposition of whether or not a final settlement may be had between the parties presenting such petition, subject to the provisions of law relating to settlements in workers' compensation cases.

(2) The workers' compensation judge may have a full hearing on the petition, and take testimony of physicians and others relating to the permanency or probable permanency of the injury, and take such other testimony relevant to the subject matter of such petition as the workers' compensation judge may require. The workers' compensation judge may consider such petition and dismiss the same without a hearing if in his judgment the same shall not be set for a hearing.

(3) The expenses of such hearing or investigation, including necessary medical examinations, shall be paid by the employer or insurance carrier, and such expenses may be included in the final award. If the workers' compensation judge decides it is in the best interest of both parties to said petition that a final award be made, a decision shall be rendered accordingly and the workers' compensation judge may make an award that shall be final as to the rights of all parties to said petition and thereafter the workers' compensation judge shall have no jurisdiction over any claim for the injury or any results arising from same. If the workers' compensation judge should decide the case should not be finally settled at the time of the hearing, the petition shall be dismissed without prejudice to either party, and the workers' compensation judge shall have the same jurisdiction over the matter as if said petition had not been filed.

B. Upon the motion of any party in interest, on the ground of a change in conditions, the workers' compensation judge may, after a contradictory hearing, review any award, and, on such review, may make an award ending, diminishing, or increasing the compensation previously awarded, subject to the maximum or minimum provided in the Workers' Compensation Act, and shall state his conclusions of fact and rulings of law, and the assistant secretary shall immediately send to the parties a copy of the award.

C. This Section shall not apply to the calculation of the monthly benefit amount pursuant to R.S. 23:1221(3).

D. A petition to modify a judgment awarding benefits shall be subject to the prescriptive limitations established in R.S. 23:1209.

E. A judgment denying benefits is res judicata after the claimant has exhausted his rights of appeal.

F. An award of temporary total disability benefits may be modified by the filing of a motion for modification with the same court that awarded the benefits and under the same caption and docket number without the necessity of filing a new dispute and appearing at a mediation conference. The court shall expedite the hearing on the modification proceedings in accordance with the procedure established in R.S. 23:1124(B).

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1989, No. 454, §9, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 1999, No. 323, §1; Acts 2001, No. 1189, §1, eff. June 29, 2001; Acts 2013, No. 337, §1.

§1310.9.  Costs

If the workers' compensation judge before which any proceedings for compensation or concerning an award of compensation have been brought, under the Workers' Compensation Act, determines that such proceedings have not been brought on a reasonable ground, or that denial of benefits has not been based on a reasonable ground, the workers' compensation judge shall assess the total cost of the proceedings to the party who has brought them or the party who has unreasonably denied payment of benefits.

Acts 1988, No. 938, §2, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997.

§1317.  Hearing on the merits; rules of procedure; effect of judgment; costs; fees of medical witnesses

A.  If an answer has been filed within the delays allowed by law or granted by the workers' compensation judge, or if no judgment has been entered as provided in R.S. 23:1316 at the time for hearing or any adjournment thereof, the workers' compensation judge shall hear the evidence that may be presented by each party.  Each party shall have the right to be present at any hearing or to appear through an attorney.  The workers' compensation judge shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence or procedure other than as herein provided, but all findings of fact must be based upon competent evidence and all compensation payments provided for in this Chapter shall mean and be defined to be for only such injuries as are proven by competent evidence, or for which there are or have been objective conditions or symptoms proven, not within the physical or mental control of the injured employee himself.  The workers' compensation judge shall decide the merits of the controversy as equitably, summarily, and simply as may be.

B.  Costs may be awarded by the workers' compensation judge, in his discretion, and when so awarded the same may be allowed, taxed, and collected as in other civil proceedings.  The fees of expert witnesses shall be reasonable and fixed in the original judgment.  The judgment rendered shall have the same force and effect and may be satisfied as a judgment of a district court.

Acts 1983, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 1, §1, eff. July 1, 1983; Acts 1988, No. 938, §1, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 23, §1, eff. June 15, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2004, No. 341, §1, eff. June 18, 2004.

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