What Do Illinois Workers’ Compensation Hearings And Social Security Hearings have in Common?
During my three years of law school one of the many rules repeated over and over was, never ask a question at trial if you do not know the answer. When conducting a cross-examination in an Illinois workers’ compensation hearing or social security hearing an attorney is often forced to ask questions for which he does not have the answer. Unlike civil cases there is no discovery in Illinois workers’ compensation hearings or in social security hearings.
Discovery is a procedure by which both sides of a case obtain information held by the other party before trial (known as pre-trial). This disclosure could include facts, documents, witnesses, witness statements or any number of other documents or information.
Without discovery an attorney conducting a cross-examination must process new information immediately in order to form questions based on that information. It is important to have an attorney who is experienced, able to think on his feet and develop questions on the spot.
It is essential that an injured worker or claimant provide as much information as possible to his/her attorney including: prior claims, injuries, fractures, surgical procedures, union affiliation or potential witnesses. I frequently ask my clients to send me every document (medical records, medical bills, letters from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier) that they have in their possession that is even remotely related to the claim. In addition, a thorough initial interview with the client is essential to gather as much information as possible. All of this information is used to anticipate possible defenses and/or witnesses and avoid costly surprise.
Both law school and years of practice have helped me prepare for the unexpected at trial. The need for such competency is heightened in Illinois workers’ compensation claims and social security claims due to the lack of discovery rules.