In partnership with the Office of Information Technology Services, the New York (NY) Workers’ Compensation Board implemented a process allowing injured workers, insurance companies, and their representatives to appear virtually for Workers’ Compensation hearings. The Board’s purpose behind this change was to provide convenience for individuals and streamline the hearing process. Within the last three years of the Board implementing this new procedure, virtual hearings are available in most districts in the New York state, including Rochester, Batavia, Buffalo, and New York City.
At the end of 2018, 92% of virtual hearings were executed throughout the selected NY State Workers’ Compensation Board hearing locations. In 2019, the Board launched a new application for mobile devices to improve the users’ experience when attending virtual hearings. With law administrators opening the digital doors and relying more on the internet, the court system is trending towards a cyber world. Nonetheless, at what cost does the convenience of virtual hearings, hinder or affect the injured worker?
Virtual hearings are intended to serve the same purpose as a regular hearing. These hearings, however, allow injured workers, attorneys, representatives, witnesses and other participants to attend the hearing online. Employers, witnesses and injured employees may testify and either party can present documents or physical evidence. With the virtual hearing process can be a convenience in some cases, it can also present barriers to proper adjudications of a claim due to the physical separation of involved parties.
While intended to make the hearing process more accessible, going virtual can come at a high cost with the imminent loss of interpersonal contact between the injured worker, representatives and the judges. The absence of an individual in court tend to depersonalize them, allowing others attending the hearing to misinterpret statements or facts. The loss of personal interaction in effect restricts a claimant’s statutory right to their “day in court.”
In 2018, over 164,000 virtual hearings were held in New York state, according to the NY Workers’ Compensation Board. As locations begin providing this process across the state, it is expected that the percentage of virtual hearings, with one or two participants, will increase.
Individuals interested in virtual hearings must meet all the requirements, including testing the preferred electronic system at least 48 hours before the hearing. To attend a virtual hearing, the claimant must prepare all necessary paperwork and supporting documents, similar to a regular hearing. He/She must also have access to a reliable, high-speed internet connection as well as know-how to utilize a smartphone, laptop, tablet or an electronic device with video conference capabilities. To learn more about virtual hearings and the requirements, visit www.scb.ny.go/virtual-hearings.
Connors & Ferris is continuously aware of the new wave of trends within the industry. Given the availability of this service, nonetheless, we recommend being physically present at the hearing as it will always be more beneficial to you, the injured worker. Furthermore, we will, whenever possible, continue to attend hearings in person. From the first point of interaction with our trained staff, Connors & Ferris is committed to providing the most competent and personal service to our clients.
For more information regarding court hearings, call Connors & Ferris at any of our three locations:
Buffalo, NY: (716) 684-COMP
New York City: (212) 624-COMP
Rochester, NY: (585) 262-COMP