Hearing representative or attorney: Which should I choose?


attorney with client

The workers’ compensation system was created in the industrial era to replace unsatisfactory common law remedies. It provided a trade-off to both injured workers and employers—injured workers received a quicker path to medical and compensation benefits, and employers received immunity from the full liability of drawn out tort actions. 

But, most importantly, workers’ compensation was designed to operate without the need for drawn out lawsuits, extensive costs or attorneys.

The role of the hearing representative (hearing rep) was designed to provide representation without the expense associated with an attorney. However, following the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in the case Cleveland Bar Association v. CompManagment, hearing reps can now perform only a limited role in the hearing room due to concerns of the unauthorized practice of law.

When to use a hearing rep
While hearing reps are no longer able to argue beyond the four corners of a document or question witnesses, they remain great assets to the workers’ compensation system.  Hearing reps are able to present facts and medical defenses if the specific fact or medical argument is contained within a document in the hearing file. There are many times the claim file can be supplemented to allow a hearing rep to take the hearing, which allows employers to keep defense costs at a minimum. 

Still, due to the Cleveland Bar Association case, hearing reps are unable to perform the following during a hearing: 

  • question or cross-examine witnesses

  • argue outside the four corners of a document

  • interpret evidence

  • dispute facts

  • present legal arguments

When to use an attorney
The simple answer is: When an action is needed during the hearing that a hearing rep cannot perform. Unlike a hearing rep, an attorney can:

  • elicit testimony

  • cross-examine witnesses

  • argue and/or interpret evidence

  • dispute facts

  • prepare a legal argument

  • provide legal analysis

Every claim is different. Therefore, the best person to represent you at a hearing may change depending on the various factors of each claim. Use this information as a way to begin a conversation with your workers’ compensation attorney.

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