Appealing your Workers Compensation Decision
Did you lose your comp case?
Are you worried about your workers compensation hearing coming up?
Do you have to testify in your own workers compensation case?
What do you need to communicate to the judge?
How to successfully testify in your workers compensation case?
What is the judge looking for in my workers compensation case?
Have to discussed these issues with your attorney. Has your attorney prepared you for your testimony? These are all questions of nervous workers who are making a compensation claim caused by a work related injury!
Submitted by New Jersey Workers Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
At the trial level in workers compensation court, and all trial courts for that matter, the appellate division (appeals court) gives the trial judge great room to make determinations of credibility and believability! Why? Because the trial judge gets to see, hear, and observe the witness. How the witness behaves when testifying, what s/he say, how they say it, eye contact, voice tone, body language, and anything else the judge hears and observes comes into play. in this recent appeals court decision, the appellate court outlined the limits of its ability to review or overturn the trial judge’s decision when the trial judge bases its oral or written decision on the testimony of the witness. This is what the court said.
The judge also found petitioner’s reasoning that his divorce was the result of his work-related injury lacked credibility. He noted that petitioner failed to establish any evidence accounting “for [his] substantial fluctuations in weight that [he] apparently experienced over the last several years, while his injuries from the accident remained unchanged.” The judge further noted Dr. Gallina’s testimony was more convincing, stating “petitioner’s obesity could be attribute[ed] to a variety of lifestyle choices . . . during the more than [seventeen] years between his accident and . . . examinations of Dr. Kurani and Dr. Gallina.”
In our review of decisions by workers’ compensation judges decisions, we generally give substantial deference to their determinations, limiting our review to “whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record, considering the proofs as a whole, with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge . . . their credibility.” Lindquist v. City of Jersey City Fire Dep’t., 175 N.J. 244, 262 (2003) (quoting Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965)). “Deference must be accorded . . . unless . . . manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with competent relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.” Ibid. (citation omitted). “[T]he judge of compensation’s legal findings are not entitled to any deference and, thus, are reviewed de novo.” Hersh v. Cty. of Morris, 217 N.J. 236, 243 (2014). Based upon our careful review of the record and applicable legal principles, we “conclude that all of the  factual determinations made by the workers’ compensation judge were supported by substantial credible evidence in the record ‘and [were] not so wide off the mark as to be manifestly mistaken.'” Acikgoz v. N.J. Tpk. Auth., 398 N.J. Super. 79, 87 (App. Div. 2008) (second alteration in original) (quoting Tlumac v. High Bridge Stone, 187 N.J. 567, 573 (2006)); see also R. 2:11- 3(e)(1)(D). Hence, we affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the judge of compensation.