Until approximately 15 years ago, the Workers’ Compensation Board did not have an electronic case system. Judges relied upon actual physical case-files, and the procedure to obtain a hearing before a Law Judge was very straightforward, as requests for hearings were granted very liberally.
Today, the Board is paperless. All documents, medical reports, and miscellaneous records relating to a particular claim are accessible via the Board’s “eCase” portal, where they are organized by WCB claim number. This paperless system provides attorneys and Law Judges alike with an efficient means to reviewing case-files and preparing for hearings, but this increase in efficiency has also brought about a decline in the number of hearings scheduled by the Board.
The Workers’ Compensation Board has been “streamlining” the hearing process for the past several years, which has made it very difficult for claimants to obtain a hearing before a Law Judge. The Board will only schedule a hearing when a claimant’s weekly benefits have been suspended or the insurance carrier has denied a significant medical procedure. Many times, in lieu of providing the claimant with an initial hearing, the Board will wait for controversy to arise, and then direct the claimant/claimant’s attorney and the insurance carrier to conduct months of depositions, which is a very time-consuming process.
Effective April 10, 2017, the Workers’ Compensation Board has issued a new rule—Rule 25(2)(A)—which allows for “emergency” hearings under the following conditions (all conditions must be met):
If you have satisfied all of these requirements, the Workers’ Compensation Board is required to schedule a hearing within 45 days upon receipt of the properly completed hearing request. However, if your weekly benefits have been reduced—but NOT suspended—you do not have an automatic right to a hearing. It’s no easy task to get the Board to schedule a hearing when it is not required to do so.
The Board is very reluctant to schedule a hearing unless it is absolutely required to do so. Because of this, it is now more important than ever to hire an experienced attorney who will help you get in front of a Law Judge. Our office knows how to maneuver this process seamlessly, and we will fight on your behalf in an effort to earn an increase in your weekly benefits and/or obtain approval for significant medical procedures; your health and livelihood is in our best interest, too.