DC Workers Comp Hearings To Be Held Remotely Because of COVID-19.
After a serious injury at work in DC, if the workers comp insurance company denies or terminates you workers comp benefits, as they sometimes do after an insurance doctor exam or IME, usually your next step is to request a Formal Hearing.
In DC workers comp cases, a Formal Hearing is just like a trial, but it is held in front of a judge instead of a jury - one of the reasons it is critical to have an experienced, nationally Board Certified trial attorney with you the whole way. It's much different than how it is done in Maryland or Virginia.
Before coronavirus, it would take 5 or 6 months to get a hearing date after filing for the Formal Hearing - that delay is one of the reasons we don't go through the informal conference procedure like a lot of lawyers. If you're not getting paid workers comp benefits that can delay things another 2 or 3 months.
With coronavirus shutdowns, the courts and agencies have been closed, so no workers comp hearings were taking place in DC. Obviously, that was causing further delay in the system and greater hardship for people legitimately injured on the job.
Today, the DC Workers Compensation Hearings Division announced that Formal Hearings will be held remotely beginning May 15, 2020.
If you were hurt at work in DC and filed a workers compensation claim (or are going to) what does this mean for your case?
Hopefully, it means your case will be decided a lot faster. Either side can object to a video hearing and request an in-person hearing when courtrooms open up again, and it will be up to the judge to rule on that objection just like any other.
A lot of us don't like the way we look on video - so we'll be preparing our clients to be comfortable with video testimony and the hearing process, just like we make them comfortable in the courtroom. We'll be sending out great tips on how to use this new technology and how to testify by video.
The Administrative Hearings Division and anyone else involved in this decision to hold remote hearings has done a great job. I'm sure there will be glitches with the technology here and there, but so what? It's a great idea. We'll deal with the glitches.
There are a number of common sense rules that witnesses and lawyers will have to abide by (but the good, experienced lawyers are already doing this anyway), so a video hearing should be very similar to a live hearing.
Here's the actual Order allowing for video hearings in DC:
ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS DIVISION GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the declaration of a State of Emergency by the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Administrative Hearings Division will be conducting formal evidentiary workers? compensation hearings via video conference until such time as in-person hearings can resume.
Pursuant to D.C. Code § 32-1525(b), D.C. Code § 2-509, and 7 DCMR 223, the Office of Hearings and Adjudication, Administrative Hearing Division (AHD), will convene video hearings on or about May 15, 2020.
With respect to all such video hearings and absent good cause shown, the following requirements and procedures shall apply:
1. Any party may object to a video hearing. Any objection(s) must be stated with specificity and in writing and filed ten (10) days prior to the scheduled video hearing. The granting of an objection to the video hearing going forward is at the discretion of the presiding Administrative Law Judge and for good cause shown. Failure of a party to file an objection will constitute a waiver of the right to an in-person hearing.
2. All parties registered with the AHD e-file system shall submit all exhibits through the electronic filing system in accordance with the Scheduling Order but no later than two (2) weeks before the scheduled video hearing. Any party not registered with the e-file system shall submit their exhibits via mail or messenger service to AHD, also in accordance with the Scheduling Order, but no later than two (2) weeks before the scheduled video hearing.
3. Each party shall provide all relevant exhibits to any witness that the party intends to call as a witness or to cross-examine at least five (5) days before the video hearing.
4. Each party and witnesses in a case scheduled for a video hearing shall download a WebEx plug-in before the video hearing. The parties and witnesses attending the video hearing are expected to use a PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone equipped with a video camera and microphone. The presiding Administrative Law Judge has broad discretion to continue or cancel the video hearing if attendees cannot meet the minimum technical requirements for participants.
5. Each attorney in the case shall be responsible for ensuring that their client and witnesses are provided with the link and log-in information necessary and they are able to meet the minimum technical requirements prior to the scheduled video hearing.
6. Each party and witnesses in the case shall test his/her device at https://www.webex.com/test-
7. Each party and witnesses shall sign-in fifteen (15) minutes before the scheduled start of the video hearing.
8. Each witness will be sworn in remotely and all witnesses must aver prior to their testimony that they will not receive any undisclosed or other assistance from any source while testifying.
9. Each witness shall be subject to the rule on sequestration at the commencement of the video hearing.
10. Each witness shall place the camera at ten (10) feet away so the judge can assess demeanor and any range of motion of body parts that are at issue.
11. Parties and witnesses attending a video hearing are attending a formal judicial proceeding and must dress appropriately just as if personally appearing in court. The presiding judge shall have broad discretion to continue or cancel hearings or exclude witnesses if noise or extraneous activity disrupts the proceedings.
12. Hunt Reporting shall be participant in every video hearing and the transcript provided shall provide a verbatim transcript of the proceedings.
13. The presiding Administrative Law Judge has broad discretion to continue a scheduled video hearing until such time as an in-person hearing may be scheduled.
Have a question about DC Workers Comp?
Just give us a call at (202) 393 - 3320 and we'll answer it! Plus, order your copy of the only book on DC workers compensation written by a practicing, Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer representing people who have been hurt in the District of Columbia.