Since mid-March 2020 when most everything went into “lock-down” in Pennsylvania, one practice did not, and that was the practice of PA Workers’ Compensation. Through the efforts of the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, a division of the Bureau of Labor & Industry and Governor Wolf’s office, the practice did not miss a beat. All Workers’ Compensation Judges throughout the Commonwealth continued to have hearings in which all involved parties could participate via some form of video or telephone.
The video formats typically used by the judges are Skype for Business or Webex. When a matter is ripe to have a hearing before a judge, the judge’s staff (all working remotely) will send out to both the injured worker’s and the employer’s attorneys a calendar invitation which can be accepted or a different date and time proposed, if the parties have a conflict in their schedule. Once the date and time are accepted by both parties, the hearing is set and a hearing notice will be issued in WCAIS, the automated system in place for PA judges, attorneys, and workers’ compensation insurance companies.
It is up to the injured worker (claimant) attorney to send the hearing information to the claimant by email, fax, or regular mail. On the day of the hearing, all parties should “join the meeting” or call in by phone if they have difficulty getting the video to work. The judges have all been patient with parties if this occurs and except for some instances where the judge insists on viewing the claimant on video….say for testimony as to the details of the work injury, attending by phone has been accepted.
At every hearing, as was done before the pandemic, a court reporter is also present by phone to record and type a hearing transcript that the attorneys can order, if they wish. While not as easy or convenient as in person, this system has been clearly working. This has allowed injured workers to obtain or retain their wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits, and even settle their cases for a lump sum of money.
Not only have hearings taken place, but also mediations with workers’ compensation judges, to allow the parties to negotiate and settle their cases. If settled, then the parties attend a Compromise & Release hearing, also remotely.
It took a “village” so to speak, but not only the Office of Adjudication, but all of the judges and attorneys working together to make the process work for who it was intended….the injured worker.
If you need legal representation in your workers’ compensation case, do not think that we are closed, we are and have been open to do business. Let Robinson Law LLC help you.