How Does Court Work with Idaho Workers’ Comp?

The Bottom Line:

The process by which a workers’ comp case in Idaho is handled can feel overwhelming and complicated if you aren’t familiar with the system; consequently, it is advisable to work with an experienced attorney in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome.

Who’s Who?

Idaho Industrial Commission: The state agency that oversees workers’ compensation. They run the “court system” for workers’ compensation, which is an administrative proceeding. These cases do have procedural and evidentiary rules like typical court cases; however, the proceedings are different and can seem counterintuitive to those unfamiliar with the system.

Referee: An administrative law judge employed by the Idaho Industrial Commission to hear workers’ comp cases. The referee makes all day-to-day decisions (ruling on motions, setting deadlines, etc.) and makes a recommendation to the full Industrial Commission as to what the decision in any given case should be.

Claimant: The injured worker

Order of Operations: 

  1. An injured worker files a complaint
  2. The employer/insurance company files an answer to the complaint
  1. The parties engage in discovery
    1. This usually involves exchanging written questions and any documentation that the parties have.
    2. Most cases involve a deposition (testimony under oath) of the injured worker
  1. At some point (before, during, or after discovery) one of the parties requests a hearing on the disputed issues before a referee. The other party will respond.
  1. The referee sets a hearing date that works for both parties.
  1. Ten days prior to the hearing, both parties will share a copy of all evidence that will be submitted at the hearing along with a notice of who the experts expected to testify will be.
  1. The Hearing
    1. Admitting evidence
    2. Opening statements by both parties
    3. Any lay witness testimony
      1. Many hearings will only have the injured worker testify; some have an employer representative or other witnesses
  1. Both parties schedule post hearing depositions with any expert witnesses (usually doctors and/or vocational experts).
  1. Written transcripts from any expert depositions are sent to the Industrial Commission for consideration
  1. Once the Industrial Commission receives all the transcripts, the referee orders a briefing schedule.
  1. The parties write and submit their closing arguments
    1. The claimant submits closing argument first
    2. The employer/insurance company files a responsive brief
    3. The claimant submits a reply brief
  1. After all briefs are submitted, the referee reviews all evidence and argument and writes a proposed decision
  1. The commissioners review the proposed decision and either adopt it or write their own
  1. Parties have 20 days to request the Commission reconsider its decision or else it becomes final as to all matters addressed in the decision.
    1. A decision of the Commission may be appealed directly to the Idaho State Supreme Court

In conclusion, as there are many responsibilities and pitfalls for unrepresented claimants, an injured worker should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before attempting to navigate the litigation process on their own.