A SELF-HELP GUIDE
FAX: (406) 444-7798
If you choose to represent yourself before the Workers' Compensation Court, there are a number of things you need to know.
Initially, you may hear the term "pro se." That term, taken from Latin, means that you are representing yourself.
Now that you know the lingo, the most important things you must remember are:
First, and foremost, even though you are not an attorney, you must comply with the Rules of the Workers' Compensation Court except as to technical matters such as the requirement that documents filed with the Court must be typed -- we will accept handwritten documents if you do not have access to a typewriter or word processor.
Second, unless your injury or occupational disease occurred prior to July 1, 1987, or is within some other limited exceptions, you must mediate your dispute before petitioning the Court. If you have questions regarding mediation, call (406) 444-6534. Our staff can also provide you with information on mediation.
Third, you must send the attorney who represents the insurer or other party involved in your dispute a copy of every document, including letters, you send to the Court.
Fourth, you cannot talk to the Judge about your case unless the attorney for the other party is personally present or on the telephone. The attorney for the other party also may not talk to the Judge unless you are personally present or on the telephone.
Now that you know the most basic rules, here are some more details about what will happen in your case and what you are required to do as your case progresses.
The Rules of the Court are very specific regarding pleadings, motions, and other formal filings. The most important of those rules are:
If you are seeking benefits from an insurer, you must file a petition for hearing with the Court. The petition must include the following information:
Unless another trial location is requested, the county where the accident occurred will determine the location of the trial. Trials are schedule four times a year in Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula, and Helena. In extreme emergency, trials can be specially set.
AFTER A PETITION IS FILED
Scheduling Order: Upon the filing of your petition, the Court will issue a scheduling order. That order will set a date and place for the trial. It will set deadlines for all pre-trial matters.
The scheduling order is VERY IMPORTANT AND YOU MUST READ AND FOLLOW IT.
Discovery: Between the time the petition is filed and the trial, every party in the case will be able to conduct discovery. Discovery is a legal term which refers to various ways you, and the other parties, can find out about the evidence which might be presented at trial. The basic ways are:
Two weeks prior to trial, a pretrial conference will be conducted.
Prior to the conference you will be required to prepare a proposed pretrial order and send it to the insurer and other parties. The proposed order must set out the following information:
You must provide the insurer or other party with copies of all documents you wish to use at trial. The deadline for providing documents will be set in the scheduling order. If you fail to provide documents by the deadline you may not be able to introduce the documents at trial.
At the pretrial conference, you and the insurer (or other party) must also provide the Court with an Exhibit Notebook containing the exhibits you wish it to consider. The exhibits must be accompanied by a written list of all exhibits and a list of any objections either of you may have to the exhibits. The list must be at the front of the notebook and all exhibits must be numbered and tabbed.
OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION
A copy of the Court rules may be obtained by writing or calling the Court. If you do not understand the rules, please contact the Court. Our staff is friendly and helpful and will assist you in following the rules.