If your workers' comp claim has been denied, or you have a dispute with the insurance company about your benefits, you can challenge the decision with the New Hampshire Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL has two tiers of administrative review which give you the opportunity to contest a denial of your workers' comp benefits. (For an overview of eligibility and benefits, see our article on filing a New Hampshire workers' comp claim.)
To appeal a workers' comp denial, you must file a petition for hearing with the New Hampshire Department of Labor within 18 months of the denial of benefits. The request must be in writing and explain why you believe you are entitled to benefits. You must send a copy of the petition to the insurance company.
The DOL will typically schedule a hearing within four to six weeks of receiving your petition. During the hearing, each side will have an opportunity to submit evidence, present witnesses, and make legal arguments. The hearing officer will then consider the evidence and mail a decision to the parties.
If you are not satisfied with the hearing officer's decision, you may appeal to the Compensation Appeals Board within 30 days. A panel of three administrative officers will hold another hearing and receive additional evidence. However, you cannot bring up any new issues at this appeal. Appeal hearings usually take place six months after you file your request. The Board will make a decision within 30 days of the hearing.
If the Appeals Board does not rule in your favor, you can appeal the decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Appeals Board decision will include the deadline for filing your appeal. Complicated procedural rules apply to any case brought in civil court, including appeals of workers' compensation denials. If you haven't already, you should consult with a workers' comp attorney before pursuing an appeal in court.
Workers are permitted to represent themselves throughout their workers' comp appeals. However, workers' comp hearings follow certain procedural rules and require knowledge of substantive workers' comp laws. For that reason, if your benefits have been denied, it is usually in your best interests to hire an attorney.
Fortunately, New Hampshire workers' comp laws make it feasible to hire a lawyer. Workers' comp lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you pay them out of any award you receive (rather than out-of-pocket). Like most other states, New Hampshire also caps attorneys' fees in workers' comp cases.