Evidence in Workers' Compensation Administrative Proceedings

Workers' compensation administrative proceedings are considered less formal than their judicial counterparts, due in large part to the treatment of evidence. Though the procedural aspects are more relaxed than in a judicial proceeding, the parties are entitled to the strict observation of procedural due process.

Common law and statutory rules of evidence generally do not apply in workers' compensation administrative proceedings -- most notable is the general abrogation of the hearsay rules. Rather than excluding hearsay evidence that would ordinarily be denied admittance in a judicial setting, the workers' compensation appeals board or administrative law judge seeks to determine the rights of the parties by examining the evidence that is best calculated to accomplish such purpose. It is usually, though not always, the case that the admitted hearsay evidence is corroborated by other evidence that would have been admissible in a traditional civil action.

Evidence at an administrative proceeding can consist of witness testimony and documentary evidence. In a workers' compensation proceeding, medical evidence, including physician reports and patient records, is key. The significance and usefulness of the medical reports will depend on the issues addressed as well as the basis for the physician's opinion. For example, a medical report where the physician does not take into account the findings of the injured employee's treating physician will likely hold little weight and be insufficient to support a finding. Generally, parties will have the opportunity to cross-examine a medical expert on his report.